The first silverware of the 2023/24 season went the way of Arsenal, who defeated Manchester City on penalties in the FA Community Shield.
It was a typically fast start from City, who dominated the early territory and possession, with the best chance of the opening quarter of an hour seeing a Rodri effort from 25 yards deflect just wide of the post.
Arsenal would soon create the first clear opening of the match though; Ben White crept in behind Manuel Akanji, but Kai Havertz had his stretching shot saved by the leg of Stefan Ortega, before John Stones bravely put his chest in the way of Gabriel Martinelli’s follow-up.
A similar situation led to the Gunners’ next big opportunity, with Bukayo Saka working the chance down the right and Ortega once again denying his German compatriot Havertz, this time getting his body behind a powerful but central strike.
Just before half-time, another long range effort from Rodri almost caught Aaron Ramsdale out – this time from near the halfway line, as the Spaniard spotted the keeper on the edge of his box and was a matter of inches away from completing the lob.
The second half was equally cagey, with half-chances for Saka, Stones and substitute Cole Palmer the only goal-mouth action to speak of until the opener.
It came about thanks to magnificent play from Phil Foden, who received the ball deep and produced a delicious turn to accelerate away from Thomas Partey.
The Englishman’s pass diverted to Kevin de Bruyne, whose header found Palmer, with the winger cutting inside and firing an outstanding finish beyond Ramsdale for the opening goal.
The goal appeared to liberate City somewhat, and they almost doubled their lead when Phil Foden almost struck from close range before Rodri had his diving header turned away.
They were made to rue those missed chances in the 101st minute, as a short Arsenal corner was carried into the box by Leandro Trossard, whose effort deflected off both Julian Alvarez and Manuel Akanji into the net to take the match to a penalty shootout.
In front of the Arsenal end, the kicks went the way of the Gunners, with Kevin de Bruyne and Rodri both failing to convert their efforts and subsequently missing out on the Community Shield.
The defeat won’t be pleasant for Manchester City, but there were enough positives for Pep Guardiola to look ahead to Friday’s Premier League opener against Burnley confidently.
Stefan Ortega – 7.5
Sometimes hesitant when playing out, but remained sharp to make two solid saves. Didn’t get near Arsenal’s spot-kicks.
Kyle Walker – 7
Playing as an out-and-out right-back, he had more license to get forward, threatening Arsenal with his pace.
John Stones – 7
Didn’t seem as composed as usual in possession and largely played as a natural centre-back. Made a key block to deny Martinelli and defended well.
Ruben Dias – 7
Tough in the tackle and confident in bringing the ball out from the back.
Manuel Akanji – 6
Gave as good as he got in his individual duel with Saka, but wasn’t as air-tight defensively as we’ve been used to seeing him. Highly unfortunate as the ball deflected in off him for Arsenal’s equaliser.
Rodri – 7
Composed when under pressure in his own half, and was unlucky not to score with three good efforts. Didn’t connect well with his saved penalty.
Mateo Kovacic – 8 (MOTM)
Drove with the ball through midfield very impressively. Looked more settled into the role than he did in pre-season.
Bernardo Silva – 7
Put in the hard yards on the wing as always, although didn’t get much change out of Jurrien Timber. Coolly converted in the shootout.
Julian Alvarez – 6
Pressed more than anyone playing just behind Erling Haaland, but didn’t quite have the same influence on the ball as he did off it.
Jack Grealish – 6
Was largely kept out of the action, by virtue of close attention from Ben White and the focus of City’s attacks being more down the right.
Erling Haaland – 6.5
Held up the ball well when it was required of him, but again was mostly quiet.
Phil Foden – 7
Showed what he can do in those central areas with sharp turns and a key role in the goal.
Kevin de Bruyne – 6.5
Collected his standard assist and showed no signs of rust after missing pre-season, until missing his spot-kick in the penalty shootout.
Cole Palmer – 7.5
Had full confidence in himself to keep going for goal, and got his reward with that excellent opener.
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