Every so often a football match comes along for which the score line is completely misleading. This was one of those games. It was also one of those rare contests which lived up to the high hopes many had for it.
Since Arsenal last came to Manchester and were embarrassed by Manchester United, they have been a team on the up. So, what better time for Arsene Wenger’s team to meet a Manchester City side which had been knocked out of the Champions League and relinquished its unbeaten record in the Premier League away at Chelsea?
Also, for the first time in a long time City didn’t start a game top of the table, so it was interesting to see how they would respond to a different type of pressure – playing catch up to Manchester United.
Both managers chose attacking sides and it was an open game from the start, evidenced by the fact that in the end Roberto Mancini’s men had 12 shots to the visitors’ 10 and but for the two goalkeepers, Joe Hart in particular, it could have been a six or eight-goal thriller.
City controlled possession in the first-half with Arsenal asking numerous questions on the break. Wojciech Szczesny was alert to keep out both David Silva and Mario Balotelli before Hart palmed away a long-range effort from Aaron Ramsey.
The teams went into the break even, but there was a sense there were goals to come, from both sides, and it was City who eventually broke the deadlock, the goal coming as a consequence of Arsenal pushing forward and Koscielny and Mertesacker defending too high up the pitch.
City exploited the space when Samir Nasri played a ball into the right-hand channel which Mario Balotelli raced on to. The Italian then shot low and hard and Sczesney could only parry into the path of David Silva.
The goal seemed likely too and opened up the game still further. It took on the appearance of a basketball game with each side attacking in turn.
Just three minutes after the goal Robin van Persie had the ball in the net with a beautiful chip from Aaron Ramsey’s pass but the Dutchman was half a yard offside. 10 minutes later he launched a cracker at goal but it was straight at Hart.
The City keeper continued to cement his place as England’s No 1 with a superb save from Theo Walcott just after the goal. He also kept out Vermaelen’s 25-yard effort in the 90th minute. His heroics meant the home side kept a clean sheet for the first time in nine games, a crack they’d managed to paper over before the Chelsea game by overwhelming their opposition with goals.
City ended Arsenal’s eight-game unbeaten run and return to the top of the table, but in truth they were clinging on at the end. Arsene Wenger said victory would see his team back in the title race. This result may well leave them with too much to do to catch City, but if they keep playing like this you just never know.
Man City (4 -2 -3 -1): Hart; Richards, Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta; Y Toure (De Jong 85), Barry; Silva, Aguero, Nasri (Dzeko 85); Balotelli (Milner 71).
Arsenal (4 -3 -3): Sczcesney; Djourou (Miquel 46), Koscielny, Mertesacker (Chamakh 81), Vermaelen; Song, Arteta, Ramsey; Gervinho, Van Persie, Walcott (Arshavin 68).
Did you know… Arsenal were the first away team to win at the Etihad Stadium – in 2004.
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