Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City: Arteta strikes to all but end visitors' title challenge as Balotelli sees red
Roberto Mancini's side succumb to defeat at the Emirates as the Gunners all but end City's hopes of winning the Premier League this season
By Simon Sinclair
Arsene Wenger’s side hit the woodwork on several occasions, with Robin van Persie first denied by Thomas Vermaelen and the bar as his header seemed destined for the net.
Van Persie hit the post in the second-half and was followed by Walcott as it seemed the Gunners would never find the net.
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Was ineffective on the left flank and was extremely fortunate to escape any kind of punishment after connecting with Alex Song's knee in a dreadful challenge. Cut a frustrated figure for much of the match, kicking the post on the 25th minute and refusing to track back. After another week in the headlines for the wrong reasons, his late red card seemed inevitable. Why oh why always him?
The Gunners made one change from their side which lost 2-1 to QPR last week, with Yossi Benayoun replacing Aaron Ramsey as Wenger reshuffled his team into a 4-3-3 formation.
Roberto Mancini made six changes from the team that drew with Sunderland. David Silva was dropped from the team entirely in a surprise move, while Micah Richards, Kolo Toure, Nigel de Jong, Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko also made way.
Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and the fit-again Sergio Aguero came into the side to replace them.
Arsenal made a strong start to the game and dominated possession, putting City under real pressure as the visitors struggled to get out of their own 18-yard box.
The hosts peppered the area with crosses, and defenders Vincent Kompany and Lescott had to be at their best to alleviate the danger on Joe Hart’s goal.
Wenger’s side should have taken the lead from a corner when Van Persie rose highest and headed the ball towards goal.
The Dutchman’s effort seemed destined for the net, only for it to be blocked on the line by team-mate Thomas Vermaelen, resulting in the ball hitting the crossbar and bouncing clear, with Tomas Rosicky heading the rebound over.
Mario Balotelli sparked controversy when he flew into a tackle with Alex Song with his studs showing and without winning the ball. He made contact with Song’ shin but was not punished by referee Martin Atkinson.
City looked to have weathered the early Arsenal pressure and should have gone ahead through Balotelli when he peeled off his marker at a corner and met the cross with a first-time effort, but he miscued.
The Gunners looked to pile on pressure late in the half, particularly down the right through Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna, but neither could produce a quality final ball to trouble the resolute Kompany and Lescott.
At the start of the second half neither side was able to get any attacking momentum going due to mistakes being committed on and off the ball.
City had a great chance to take the lead when Clichy raided down the left and hit a dangerous cross deep to the back post which Aguero looked poised to head past Szczesny.
However, just as the Argentine was about to make contact, Zabaleta collided with him, taking the power off the effort, and Szczesny was able to tip the looping header over the bar.
Arsenal responded to the pressure from Mancini’s side and should have gone ahead through Van Persie, whose header hit the post from six yards after he found himself free in the area and picked up Song’s lofted pinpoint pass.
Van Persie thought he had finally got his goal when latched onto another Song pass after drifting away from Kompany. He rounded the challenge of Zabaleta before firing a right-footed shot past Hart, only to be flagged offside.
The Gunners were beginning to pile on the pressure, particularly down the right where Balotelli was offering no defensive support to Clichy. This almost cost them a goal as Sagna found Walcott in the area who fired an effort at goal, but his shot was tipped onto the post by Hart.
The rebound fell kindly for Vermaelen who only had to tap the ball into an empty net, but he lost his footing and scuffed his shot. The ball then landed at the feet of Benayoun who was also unable to turn the ball in and Lescott managed to clear.
Arsenal finally got the breakthrough when Arteta got the ball in midfield and drove towards the City area, striking a powerful effort from 25 yards which sailed into the bottom corner of the net, beating the outstretched hand of Hart.
City’s day worsened when Balotelli saw red for a second yellow card after bringing down Sagna with a reckless challenge, leaving referee Atkinson with little choice but to give him his marching orders, as they all but handed Manchester United the title.
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