The hosts survived a late onslaught from the Gunners thanks to keeper Joe Hart as their Spanish playmaker's second-half strike proved enough to secure all three pointsManchester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win against Arsenal in a pulsating game at the Etihad Stadium.
David Silva’s second half goal secured all three points in a brilliant match that swayed to and fro from the first minute.
City made three changes from their first defeat of the season against Chelsea on Monday with Arsenal old boys Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri coming into the side.
Pablo Zabaleta joined them in the starting lineup as Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Gael Clichy all missed out. Meanwhile, the Gunners were unchanged from their defeat of Everton last Saturday.
The early stages were dominated by the home side as the Gunners looked nervy on the ball and struggled to retain possession.
City’s bright start should have seen them take the lead in the ninth minute as Zabaleta was played clear on the left hand side by Gareth Barry before sliding the ball across the front of both Arsenal centre-halves to Sergio Aguero, whose first touch was exemplary, but still saw him fire over from 15 yards.
Against the run of play Arsenal almost took the lead moments later as Gervinho managed to get in behind the home defence for the first time only to see his powerful shot just about saved by Hart. From the resultant corner, which van Persie took short, Aaron Ramsey’s curling effort from the edge of the area was saved once again by Hart.
Wojciech Szczesny added to his burgeoning reputation midway through the half with a superb save from Mario Balotelli. Mertesacker was then outmuscled by Balotelli in the area and the Italian had the goal gaping from six yards before Szczesny spread himself brilliantly to block the shot.
Arsenal seemed to grow in confidence as the first half went on as they looked to break quickly, through van Persie and Gervinho in particular, in what was a breathless first 45 minutes.
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An open start to the second half saw both teams push forward for the opening goal, which duly came in the 53rd minute as Balotelli was given far too much space on the left hand side. He then stole a yard on Alex Song before unleashing a powerful strike that could only be parried to Silva who couldn’t miss from a yard.
The response from Arsenal was superb as first Theo Walcott forced a fine save from Hart and then van Persie had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside call.
City should have doubled their lead just after the hour mark after Nasri linked well with Silva before finding space behind the defence, all he had to do was play the ball across goal for Balotelli to stroke home into an empty net but his pass was woefully over-hit and the ball went harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Arsenal looked shaken after the City goal and once again the home side should have scored a second goal as Zabaleta intercepted a poor ball from Koscielny and unleashed a fabulous strike from 20 yards only to see it bounce straight back off the post with Szczesny rooted to the spot.
The away side felt they should have had a penalty in the 78th minute as Koscielny’s cross flicked onto the right arm of Micah Richards. The full back knew little about it and his hand was by his side, which may have helped influence the referee’s decision.
To stem the flow of the game Roberto Mancini moved to tighten the midfield and with that Arsenal struggled to create too many chances even with the introduction of Marouane Chamakh.
Andrei Arshavin had a chance late on to work Joe Hart at the back post but his shot was taken too quickly and it went harmlessly into the side netting.
Thomas Vermaelen then went close with a strike from outside the area but it was to no avail as City held out in what was a breathless game and a great advert for the Premier League.
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