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THERE was no pointing the finger at VAR, the Premier League or anyone else.

Due to some diabolical finishing, Forest have only themselves to blame for delivering a win which could have caused an earthquake at the top of the Premier League while pushing Luton and Burnley ever closer to the drop.

Ultimately, Forest wasted four excellent chances against a City team who were not anywhere near their best but were able to keep Arsenal within their sights.

This was courtesy of a goal in each half from defender Josko Gvardiol and the fit-again Erling Haaland, who grabbed his 32nd of the season, nine minutes after arriving as a substitute.

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City’s fans, mocking Liverpool’s spectacular collapse, merrily sang ‘Jurgen’s cracking up’ but luckily for them, Pep Guardiola’s team is not.

Once again, Guardiola’s team overcame a psychological barrier of having seen Arsenal play before them and win.

There will be a repeat on Saturday when Arsenal entertain Bournemouth at lunchtime and City face Wolves in the evening.

But when you have won three titles in a row, these type of situations are a bit easier to handle.

And the same applies to this tricky gamer at the City Ground where Forest were roared on by an enthusiastic crowd and caused City some major problems.

Guardiola’s team accepted the fortune dished out to them by Forest’s wasteful finishing, remained patient and then sealed the game with Haaland’s strike.

Kyle Walker did not enjoy one of his better games at right back, keeper Ederson suffered an injury for the third time in an away game this season and was replaced by Stefan Ortega while Julian Alvarez laboured up front.

Guardiola was so concerned by the problems his team suffered in the first half that at half-time that he replaced the anonymous Jeremy Doku for Mateo Kovacic to give the midfield a bit more of a backbone.

Forest felt they should have got three penalties at Everton last week but here the frustrations were with those wasted opportunities. Particularly the two from Wood who scored a late leveller here in last season’s 1-1 draw.

Forest could have scored after just 24 seconds when Neco Williams’ failed to get a proper connection to a shot after just 24 seconds.

Willy Boly and Ederson both needed treatment for a collision – with City’s Brazilian later replaced by Stefan Ortega – while Forest’s defender then got a smack in the face from De Bruyne’s free-kick.

Yet De Bruyne’s next set-piece proved to be a lot more clinical. His corner dropped invitingly at the near post and Gvardiol shook off marker Morgan Gibbs-White with a late run, got in front of Murillo and delivered a glancing header past Matz Sels.

It was the 23rd time Forest have conceded from a set-piece this season, the same amount as Sheffield United.

Wood then wasted the first of his glorious chances as Gonzalo Montiel’s cut-back went through the Kiwi’s legs when he looked certain to score.

Murillo ended up being a culprit at both ends as he failed to capitalise on a fumble from Ederson and the Forest left-back somehow lifted the ball over the bar from a couple of yards.

Forest then created one more chance at the start of the second half before fizzling out. Wood, again, looked up to the sky after missing another good opportunity but his left-footed shot did not have enough power and it was blocked by Gvardiol.

Once Guardiola brought on Haaland for Jack Grealish just after the hour, City looked much more of a threat.

And Haaland had barely broken into a sweat before he made it 2-0. He received a pass from De Bruyne, was given just a little too much room by Murillo and he was able to slide a shot into the bottom corner.

Callum Hudson-Odoi forced a save from Ortega at the end but the game had been long over.

Now, Nuno Espirito Santo must hope his team can deliver a similarly-impressive performance like the first half against Sheffield United this weekend, albeit with some better finishing.

If they do so, then Forest will be fine and will have taken a key step towards safety. But lose at Bramall Lane and life could become even more complicated – particularly with Burnley away looming on the final day.

 

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