Hart's penalty heroics all in vain
Samir Nasri and Alex Song scored in each half before Nicklas Bendter scored on his return to give Arsenal a 3-0 victory over Manchester City in a fascinating match at Eastlands, which saw Derek Boyata sent off after just five minutes.
Boyata rightly received his marching order early on for hauling down Marouane Chamakh before Nasri and Song both scored powerful efforts, and Bendtner a cool finish, with a Cesc Fabregas missed penalty sandwiched in between for good measure.
After the distracting Wayne Rooney fiasco over the past seven days, attentions were turned to a far more sobering aspect of football before kick-off at Eastlands, where a minutes applause was performed in memory of previous Manchester City manager Malcolm Allison.
Allison managed to club on two separate spells and led them to their most successful era in their history during the 1960's and 1970's, which included a first division title, an FA Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup.
However, even with no notable success since then, City are a far different prospect after the injection of millions from Abu Dhabi-based owner Sheikh Mansour and came into this game lying second, with more than a chance of beating Arsenal after overcoming the Londoners 4-2 in the same fixture last season.
With thoughts of Allison reverberating around the stadium, City started the strongest and Carlos Tevez, in for European hat-trick hero Emmanuel Adebayor, nearly contributed to the opening goal inside the first few minutes. The Argentinian made a fool of Johan Djourou down the right flank and sent over a low cross that David Silva flicked through his own legs, only for Lukasz Fabianski to get down quickly to block.
City’s fortunes turned sour immediately afterwards though in an incident that Allison, a centre-half in his playing days, would no doubt be shaking his head at. Cesc Fabregas played a clever slide-rule pass through to Marouane Chamakh, only for Dedryck Boyata to haul the Moroccan down to receive his marching orders and leave his club playing with just 10 men for 85 minutes.
Despite the early red card, hard challenges continued to litter the Eastlands pitch with Gareth Barry, Fabregas, Denilson, Djourou and Song all going into the referee’s book before half-time.
Arsenal slowly started to take control of the game and should have gone ahead after 18 minutes when Bacary Sagna’s whipped cross met a rising Johan Djourou, who could only power his header over from eight yards out.
The Gunners did not have to rue the missed chance for long though as only a minute later they were ahead. Again Bacary Sagna was the provider, finding Samir Nasri just outside the City area. The Frenchman played a one-two with Andrey Arshavin, leaving Barry for dead, before firing past the advancing Joe Hart from eight yards out for his seventh goal in his seventh appearance this season.
It was a big blow for City, but as counter-attacking specialists, they remained a constant threat for the adventurous Arsenal, who looked far from watertight at the back and Micah Richards nearly made them pay.
James Milner played in the marauding Micah Richards, but the full-back got noticeably nervous when he found himself inside the area with just the goalkeeper to beat he curled a left-foot shot just past the angle of post and crossbar from 12 yards out.
With City starting to find their feet again after the double blow of the sending off and then conceding, Arsenal were given the opportunity to take a 2-0 lead into half-time as Vincent Kompany recklessly took out Fabregas just inside the area and a penalty was immediately awarded.
The Spaniard stepped up and hit the penalty with pace towards the corner but it wasn’t low enough, and Joe Hart took advantage to make a brilliant save to deny the 23-year-old from the penalty spot for only the second time in his career.
As the clocked ticked towards the break Kompany came close to putting his side level when he headed over from eight yards out before resorting back to his defensive abilities and brilliantly blocking a powerful goal-bound effort from Denilson.
Arsenal ahead | Samir Nasri celebrates his opener
Arsenal came out the strongest in the second half, Marouane Chamakh again involved as he nipped in to steal the ball off Jerome Boateng and feed in Samir Nasri. The goal scorer then found Cesc Fabregas, but his 12-yard shot lacked power and Joe Hart saved comfortably.
With Tevez hobbling badly, Arsenal again mounted an attack. Gael Clichy whipped over a cross from the Arsenal left that Joe Hart could only punch away to stop Fabregas sneaking in at the far post to double his team’s lead.
With Adebayor coming on for the injured Tevez, City started to increase the pressure for the first time in the second period.
The Togo international headed over with Fabianski in no-man’s land, before James Milner and David Silva combined well on the right flank to allow the Spaniard to toe-poke a powerful effort from an angle, that the Arsenal goalkeeper did brilliantly well to stop rifling into the back of the net.
With the pace of the match reaching Usain Bolt levels, Arsenal hit the home team with a sucker punch. They played it from left to right and Nasri picked it up and laid the ball back to Fabregas who tried to find Chamakh, but the pass was cut out by Wayne Bridge, only for it fall to Alex Song to hammer the ball into the top corner of Joe Hart's goal from 14 yards out.
Mario Balotelli came on for Manchester City in the final 15 minutes for his Premier League debut, replacing the poor Barry and the move nearly brought fruition as the teenager was involved in the move that led to Adebayor coming extremely close to getting his team back into it, only for a stunning reaction save by Lukasz Fabianski to deny him.
But whatever City produced, Arsenal seemed comfortable enough in defence, a marked change from the first half.
They easily contained the home side, and had more than enough chances to score a third and did just that as the game edged towards it's conclusion.
With Nasri again involved, the Frenchman slid a ball through for Nicklas Bendtner, who escaped the offside trap to run through and coolly slot home on his return to first team action and round off a convincing win for the Londoners.
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