Haaland helps Man City keep heat on Arsenal in Premier League title race

Manchester City moved back to within a point of leaders Arsenal at the Premier League summit as Erling Haaland got back on the scoresheet during a routine 2-0 victory at Nottingham Forest.

Haaland was a second-half substitute and his introduction helped Pep Guardiola’s side motor to victory as he latched onto Kevin De Bruyne’s pass to thunder home his 21st league goal of the season.

By then, Josko Gvardiol had already headed City in front from a De Bruyne corner (32), on an afternoon which at times looked uncomfortable for the defending champions but was ultimately negotiated with minimal fuss.

Ederson left the City Ground with his left arm in a sling after coming off at half-time following a collision with Willy Boly – but it was the only sour point on a day Guardiola oversaw his 300th Premier League game in charge.

Josko Gvardiol is congratulated by his team-mates after putting Manchester City in front against Nottingham Forest
Gvardiol rose to meet Kevin De Bruyne’s cross

Arsenal survived a second-half response from Tottenham earlier on Super Sunday to complete a north London derby double for the season and ensure they would remain top of the Premier League table until at least next Saturday.

But, placed once more in the position of chasers in this engrossing battle, City came up with the answers in the Midlands, where they have previously lost to Wolves and Aston Villa this season.

If they continue to do so in their final four games, they will be crowned Premier League champions for an unprecedented fourth time in a row.

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Roy Keane says the Premier League title is Man City’s after beating Nottingham Forest. While Paul Merson says Man City don’t get enough credit for performing well under pressure.

Haaland said: “It’s an important win, it does not matter how we do it, and it is good to be back. We knew it was going to be a fight, and the pitch was not the easiest to play on but we cannot complain, it is about winning and that is exactly what we did.

Premier League title race

“The most important thing is to not think [about the title race], especially in these moments. It’s about taking it day by day. Honestly, if you overthink you’re going to be crazy in your head, so relax, enjoy and focus on the next one.”

Forest, meanwhile, remain a point outside the relegation zone with the club expected to learn the outcome this week of their appeal against the four points deducted for breaking financial rules last season.

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Roy Keane joked that Erling Haaland is back up to a ‘Championship level’ player after his goal against Nottingham Forest! The former Manchester United midfielder had called Haaland a ‘League Two player’ after City’s draw with Arsenal last month.

Player ratings

Nottingham Forest: Sels (7), Williams (6), Niakhate (5), Boly (7), Murillo (5), Aina (6), Elanga (6), Danilo (5), Gibbs-White (6), Hudson-Odoi (6), Wood (5).

Subs: Sangare (n/a), Reyna (6), Yates (6), Montiel (6), Omobamidele (5).

Man City: Ederson (5), Walker (6), Ake (7), Gvardiol (8), Rodri (7), Akanji (7), Doku (5), Bernardo Silva (7), De Bruyne (8), Grealish (5), Alvarez (6).

Subs: Stones, Kovacic (7), Haaland (7), Ortega (6), Bobb (n/a), Nunes (n/a).

Player of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne.

How City provided perfect response to Arsenal

Noel Gallagher celebrates in the away end on Sunday
Noel Gallagher celebrates in the away end on Sunday

Forest’s season was never going to be defined by this encounter, but City’s could well have been had they not shaken off obdurate opponents.

When they needed control, Haaland provided it, finishing off a 29-pass move after 83 seconds of possession.

Team news

  • Nuno Espirito Santo made two changes to the Nottingham Forest side that lost 2-0 to Everton last time out. Gio Reyna dropped to the bench while Nicolas Dominguez was not involved. Willy Boly made a return to the squad after initially being ruled out while Anthony Elanga started.
  • Phil Foden was missing from the Man City squad while Erling Haaland was on the bench after two games on the sidelines with a muscle injury. Mateo Kovacic dropped to the bench while Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku were both in the starting line-up.

After 32 minutes of toil, City hit the front with the most simple of goals, with Forest down to 10 players.

Neco Williams was off the field receiving treatment when De Bruyne’s corner was met powerfully by Gvardiol, rising ahead of Murillo having peeled off Morgan Gibbs-White. The ball flew past Matz Sels before he could react.

Josko Gvardiol is congratulated after giving Manchester City the lead against Nottingham Forest
Josko Gvardiol is congratulated after giving City the lead

Michael Dawson told Sky Sports: “It is naïve – Williams goes down and you can see clearly he will not continue. It is a great header, though, he is way past the far post and just has to guide it. But it is avoidable from Forest.”

The hosts had some really good moments during the first half with City far from their swashbuckling best. Guardiola’s side have been described as a machine and a juggernaut as Liverpool have faltered, but with Phil Foden absent through illness and Haaland only fit enough to start on the bench, they had to dig deep along the River Trent.

Julian Alvarez fires a shot on goal against Nottingham Forest
Julian Alvarez fires a shot on goal against Forest

Chris Wood was guilty of the biggest miss in the opening half as he was unable to readjust his feet to tuck home Gonzalo Montiel’s pull back.

Paul Merson said: “It’s a big miss. He could even take a touch, and then score. He’s got to be on his toes – his feet don’t move.”

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Brilliant block by Josko Gvardiol as Chris Wood comes close!

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Chris Wood fumbles BIG chance for Nottingham Forest.

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Murillo tips the ball over the crossbar!

On the stroke of half-time, a fumble from Ederson at a Gibbs-White corner presented the ball at the feet of Murillo but the centre-back flicked his effort from a yard out over the crossbar.

City were forced into replacing Ederson at the break with Stefan Ortega called upon for a third time in the Premier League this season.

Yet three minutes into the restart, Anthony Elanga pounced on a Kyle Walker mistake to cross for Wood to see his goal-bound shot blocked heroically by Gvardiol.

There was concern etched on Guardiola’s face as he consulted fitness coach Lorenzo Buenaventura, who held a stop-clock to his gaze. When could Haaland come on?

With half an hour remaining, it was time – and the Norwegian was soon unleashed by De Bruyne to steer City to victory.

Erling Haaland scores Man City's second goal at the City Ground
Haaland scores Man City’s second goal at the City Ground

Pep: These games are so, so tough

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is satisfied to have picked up three points on the road at Nottingham Forest with a 2-0 victory.

Man City boss Pep Guardiola: “It was a difficult game, they played with bravery. They have fast players with a lot of quality so we found a goal in the moment when it was 10 against 11.

“It is a great victory as we had a lot of games behind us. Now we have a long week to recover.

“The game changed when Bernardo [Silva] came inside and made a lot of passes. It was difficult because the opponents were so tough, aggressive. These game are so, so tough at this stage in the Premier League.”

Espirito Santo: We could have done better

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Despite losing 2-0 at home to Manchester City, Nottingham Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo was encouraged with their performance and is optimistic they can avoid relegation.

Nottingham Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo: “We played a good game, were compact, organised and had chances. We did a good job regarding how hard it is to play against Manchester City, and the players gave it a big go. With this attitude, we will achieve what we want.

“We are disappointed with the result, the encouragement comes from the way we work, how committed we are, and what we have ahead of us. This is more important. We stay positive and we go for the next three games.

“The performance today, and before, we are working very hard, but missing important moments also in the defensive aspect in the games and set pieces, but we are giving it a go. It is important we keep producing because we trust that the final touch will come.”

On Chris Wood and Forest’s missed chances: “We could have done better. Chris is one of the best strikers in the Premier League, we trust him and he will deliver for sure.”

Keane: City will win all their remaining games

Ederson punches a Nottingham Forest cross clear
Ederson punches a Nottingham Forest cross clear

Sky Sports’ Roy Keane:

“It’s all about getting results at this stage of the season. Pep, given the standards he sets, will certainly be concerned with the chances they gave up in the first half, but they had a lot more control in the second half.

“It’s the same old story with City, even when they are not at their best. They know how to win football matches, they have good options off the bench, and they have got into a really good habit of winning matches in recent years.

“I was worried at the start of the game, I wondered if they could slip up, but I think City will win all the rest of their matches now.”

Erling Haaland celebrates his goal off the bench
Erling Haaland celebrates his goal off the bench

Sky Sports’ Micah Richards:

“City made sure they got the job done. It was about moments. There are going to be times when you’re going for the Premier League when you’re not at your best, but it’s about getting over the line at pivotal moments, and that is exactly what City have done.”

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“You don’t often seen City concede as many shots on their goal as they have today [15-10 in Forest’s favour]. Nuno Espirito Santo will just be disappointed Forest have not been able to tuck a couple of them away.”

City hold their nerve – Opta stats

Haaland is all smiles after doubling City's lead
Haaland is all smiles after doubling City’s lead

  • Manchester City have won eight of their last nine Premier League away games (D1), and have now won more games on their travels this season in the competition (12) than they managed in the whole of last (11).
  • After winning two of their first three Premier League games under Nuno Espírito Santo (L1), Nottingham Forest have since won just two of their last 15 in the competitions (D4 L9). The Tricky Trees have now suffered more league defeats this season (19) than in the whole of last (18).
  • Nottingham Forest have conceded 23 Premier League goals from set-pieces (excl. penalties) this season; in the competition’s history, only Fulham in 2013-14 (28), Tottenham in 2007-08 (26), and West Brom in 2010-11 (24) have ever shipped more such goals in a single campaign.
  • Manchester City have kept back-to-back clean sheets away from home in the Premier League for the first time since a run of five from February to April 2022.

What’s next?

Saturday 4th May 5:00pm

Kick off 5:30pm

Sky Sports Premier League HD
Sky Sports Premier League HD

Nottingham Forest travel to Sheffield United on May 4, kick-off 3pm, while Manchester City host Wolves live on Saturday Night Football on the same day, kick-off 5.30pm.

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