Guardiola’s 1st season at Man City to end without a trophy

Guardiola's 1st season at Man City to end without a trophy

Pep Guardiola’s first season in English soccer with Manchester City will end without a trophy.

He’s even facing a battle just to qualify for the Champions League.

Alexis Sanchez’s extra-time goal earned Arsenal a 2-1 victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

While Arsenal can look forward to an FA Cup final against Chelsea next month, City’s unraveling season will now be defined by finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

With five league games to go, that’s far from certain.

City lies in fourth place and is now just one point ahead of bitter rival Manchester United, which made light of the absence of injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in winning 2-0 at Burnley on Sunday.

City and United meet in a derby match at Etihad Stadium on Thursday that assumes huge importance for two teams who were expected to be challenging for the title this season, not scraping into the top four.

Guardiola won at least one trophy — often many more — in each of his seasons with Barcelona (2008-2012) and Bayern Munich (2013-16) but he’s found it harder at City, where he arrived as the most coveted coach in world soccer.

City was eliminated from the Champions League by Monaco at the last-16 stage, while Guardiola gave up on winning the Premier League back in January while Chelsea was embarking on a stunning run of victories.

Both City and United were helped by third-placed Liverpool losing 2-1 at home to relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, leaving the three teams separated by three points. Liverpool is two points clear of City and three ahead of United, but has played two more games than both the Manchester clubs.

Here’s a closer look at Sunday’s games:

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FA CUP:

ARSENAL 2, MANCHESTER CITY 1

The FA Cup is again proving to be a comfort blanket for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal is languishing in seventh place in the Premier League, and is set to miss out on the Champions League, but is back in the FA Cup final after coming from behind against City.

After Sergio Aguero put City ahead in the 62nd minute, Nacho Monreal equalized in the 71st before Sanchez struck in the 101st to secure an all-London May 27 final against Chelsea. It gives Wenger a shot at a seventh FA Cup triumph, at the end of a season that might be his last at a club he has managed since 1996.

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PREMIER LEAGUE:

BURNLEY 0, MAN UNITED 2

United manager Jose Mourinho needs his forwards to step up in the absence of Ibrahimovic, who sustained a serious knee injury on Thursday, and two did so at Turf Moor.

Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney were handed rare starts and responded with first-half goals in what proved to be a comfortable win for United against a team with a strong home record.

United extended its unbeaten run to 23 games dating to Oct. 23 and has its old aura back heading into the derby against City on Thursday.

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LIVERPOOL 1, CRYSTAL PALACE 2

Christian Benteke was sold by Liverpool to Palace for 27 million pounds (now $34.6 million) in August as he didn’t fit into coach Juergen Klopp’s plans. He is proving the perfect fit at his new club.

The Belgium striker returned to Anfield and scored twice for Palace, the equalizer to cancel out Philippe Coutinho’s free kick and then a close-range winner from a 74th-minute corner.

It is now five goals in his last five games for Benteke, a run of goals that has helped Palace move seven points from the bottom three.

Palace manager Sam Allardyce secured his first win at Anfield in 14 attempts and looks to have masterminded another escape from relegation, which is proving to be his speciality.

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

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