Rodri scores dramatic injury-time winner after Mahrez’s controversial pen against ten-man Gunners

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Rodri scores dramatic injury-time winner after Mahrez's controversial pen against ten-man Gunners

Ten-man Arsenal and Granit Xaka were again masters of their own downfall against Manchester City.

Rodri caught the runaway leaders’ stoppage-time winner to end the home side’s valiant resistance.

Riyad Mahrez equalized for Man City with a controversial second-half penalty

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Riyad Mahrez equalized for Man City with a controversial second-half penaltycredit: Reuters
Man City celebrated after Riyad Mahrez widely converted his penalty

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Man City celebrated after Riyad Mahrez widely converted his penaltycredit: Reuters
Gabriel Magalhes was sent off in the second half for two quick-fire bookings

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Gabriel Magalhes was sent off in the second half for two quick-fire bookingscredit: getty

And it will be every bit as painful as the Gunners stabbed 5-0 at the Etihad in August.

Arsenal’s brilliant first-half performance was undone by a few minutes of madness at the start of the second period.

Zaka, sent off in a 5–0 loss at the Etihad in August, removed a penalty that allowed Riyad Mahrez to cancel Bukayo Saka’s opener.

And on this occasion Brazilian defender Gabriel looked red after being shown two yellow cards before and after a spot-kick.

Arsenal fans sang ‘2-1’ to the referee after Rodri had their hearts close in the third minute of six extra minutes.

But the real fault lies closer to home, despite VAR failing to award a penalty to the home team in the first half.

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City’s spot-kick and Gabriel’s dismissal turned the game on its head when Arsenal produced arguably the best 45 minutes of football that Pep Guardiola’s runaway leaders have faced this season.

Forced to watch from home after contracting Covid-19 for the second time, boss Mikel Arteta must have been delighted with his team.

The Gunners were the better side from the start and thought they should have penalized themselves in the tenth minute for Ederson’s challenge on Martin Odegaard.

The City goalkeeper got a little ball and a lot of man, but VAR Jared Gillette didn’t see enough to nullify referee Stuart Atwell’s early decision to award a corner.

At the other end, Ruben Dias should have done better with a free header when Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale flew carelessly from his six-yard box.

But the visitors could not complain when Arsenal took the lead with a beautifully worked goal.

A lovely move ended with Kieran Tierney finding Saka, who swung the ball crisply in front of Ederson.

Arsenal remained the better side and Martinelli had two chances to extend his lead, but sent both his shots wide of Ederson’s left-hand post.

Kevin de Bruyne sent a curling shot just before the frame of the goal but an equalizer would have been hard on Arsenal.

But City’s penalty was not for all opposition from the home team.

Arsenal took the lead after polishing the team's moves in the first half

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Arsenal took the lead after polishing the team’s moves in the first halfcredit: Reuters
Bukayo Saka gave Arsenal the lead at home to league leaders, but his side couldn't hold up

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Bukayo Saka gave Arsenal the lead at home to league leaders, but his side couldn’t hold upcredit: Rex

Zaka tried to avoid tripping Bernardo Silva, but his tug on the City star’s shirt was plain for all to see on replay, and this time Gillette advised Atwell to rethink.

The referee had no choice but to point to the spot and Mahrez sent off Ramsdale the wrong way.

Gabriel had already been booked after the scuffle that followed Atwell’s decision.

And his crude foul on Gabriel Jesus left his team to play in the final half-hour just two minutes later.

Arsenal almost took the lead when Aymeric Laporte led his own goalkeeper – Nathan Acke cleared the line and Martinelli hit the post with a follow-up.

But City were now in control of the game, desperately checking for the winner.

Yet they failed to create a clear chance and fell mainly short for shots from a distance.

The main villain, Silva, was lucky not to be cautioned against an encounter with the ball boy because his own desperation got the better of him.

But then Rodri headed home to extend City’s winning run to 11 games.

With one or both Liverpool and Chelsea set to drop points at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Guardiola’s under-par team must still play for the title.

But Arteta and Arsenal have closed the gap between the clubs and can legitimately believe they can reunite with them in the Champions League next season.

And he wondered what might have happened if a few familiar failures hadn’t quashed all evidence of improvement.

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