Gunners shatter City’s Champions League qualifying hopes

London, May 9

Pep Guardiola could find himself without Champions League football next season after Manchester City’s hopes of qualifying suffered a major setback in a 2-2 draw with Premier League top-four rivals Arsenal at Eastlands on Sunday.

Arsenal twice came from behind, goals from Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez cancelling out efforts from Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, in what was City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game in charge before he is replaced by Bayern Munich’s Guardiola after the end of the season. This result left fourth-placed City just two points in front of Manchester United, who have a game in hand on their local rivals.

FA Cup finalists United, currently fifth, will definitely finish above City and deny Guardiola, who guided Barcelona to two Champions League titles before joining Bayern, a place in European football’s premier club competition if they end their league season with wins against West Ham and Bournemouth. “We should have won that game,” Pellegrini told the BBC. “But Arsenal’s goals were good.”

The draw meant Arsenal remained third but they moved to within two points of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, after their arch-north London rivals saw a miserable week end with a 2-1 loss at home to Southampton earlier on Sunday. “I am not disappointed because twice we were losing and twice we came back,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “It was an unbelievable fight today.”

City were ahead as early as the eighth minute when Argentina striker Aguero got on the end of Fernandinho’s header into the box. But just minutes later, France striker Giroud equalised for Arsenal when he rose unmarked to head in a corner. City, beaten in the Champions League semi-finals by Real Madrid in midweek, restored their lead in the 51st minute when Belgium midfielder de Bruyne’s low shot from the edge of the box beat Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Arsenal rallied again when Chile striker Sanchez, ultimately denying compatriot Pellegrini a farewell home win, struck in the 68th-minute after getting on the end of Giroud’s flick into the box.

City though almost won the game late on, but Wilfried Bony’s shot hit the crossbar.

Concerningly for England, ahead of June’s European Championship, Gunners striker Danny Welbeck went off with an apparent knee injury in the first half. England manager Roy Hodgson is due to name his France 2016 squad on Thursday.

In Sunday’s other Premier League match, Liverpool rounded off a week that saw them beat Villarreal to reach the Europa League final with a 2-0 win at home to Watford.