The match that began as a battle of minds between Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta, but City looked more comfortable as things became more conventional in the closing stages

For much of the night, the Etihad Stadium was thick with the fog of war. Games between managers who know each other well can often grind themselves into stalemate. There was never any realistic chance of that happening with Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta. Their two previous meetings as coaches had been contrasting, highly evolved affairs, and for an hour this was no different: a coaching duel that more closely resembled a heads-up poker game, an exercise in inscrutability.

And yet in the end, this was not really a game won and lost on plans or schemes. That much became manifest in the anticlimactic closing stages, as Manchester City imperiously closed down a game that had spent much of its life teetering on the brink of chaos. Ultimately, they won because they had better players who had been coached together for longer. Sometimes it really is that simple.

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