Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0

Mikel Arteta struck four minutes before time to grab Arsenal a vital three points to take the Gunners back to third place in the Premiership, and at the same time shatter Manchester City’s title ambitions. Having won earlier in the day with a 2-0 win over QPR, Manchester United are now eight points clear of their noisy neighbours, and the gloom will continue for Roberto Mancini who saw controversial striker Mario Balotelli see red in the 90th minute after a second yellow card. Arsenal will care not on that front, but given the start to their own season, lying in a Champions League place with six games to go will please Arsene Wenger no end.

 

We had consistent domination in the game. The team continues to grow. Arsene Wenger

 

With City aiming to overhaul United in their pursuit of a record 20th title, you would have expected Robert Mancini to set out his side with the belief of winning at a stadium which seems to terrify City. That he didn’t demonstrated naivety of the highest order and one which could ultimately cost him. There was only one side that wanted to win this game, and they were in red and white. For all their industry, the desire to get forward and create chances, City replied with switching to an it would seem default Emirates position of defence in depth, a tactic that has served them well on previous north London visits. Not on this occasion however.

Four minutes before time, substitute David Piazrro was robbed by Arteta. The midfielder strode purposefully forward and unleashed a vicious drive that Joleon Lescott turned his back on, and Joe Hart saw fizz past his near post. The Emirates crowd erupted in delight, save for a small corner clad in blue, who were to suffer further humiliation as the Arsenal fans celebrated with their very own adopted Poznan celebration.

Thomas Rosicky enjoyed another blood and guts type of game, with fierce tackles and team play that nearly saw him carve out an 8th minute opener. His shot however was deflected for a corner. Six minutes later, it was from another corner that Arsenal should have scored. Laurent Koscielny flicked on Arteta’s in-swinger at the near post, Van Persie’s header was going into the unguarded net, but unfortunately for him, Thomas Vermaelen inadvertently blocked on the line.

City had already seen Yaya Toure yellow carded and then taken off injured and replaced with Pizarro, but despite the skills of Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri, they created next to nothing. Nasri and Gael Clichy were booed at every touch, but again City were forced to attempt to manage the enigma that is Balotelli. How the Italy striker was not red carded for a studs up shocker on Alex Song’s shin, only referee Martin Atkinson will know why. The official may have been unsighted, but the FA will take a keen interest in that awful challenge.

Wojciech Szczesny had to be alert to the danger Balotelli to clear into the sky, but the half was to finish goal-less thanks in part to City’s spoiling tactics. Having picked up a knock, Kieran Gibbs was replaced by Andre Santos, and just as well for the Brazil defender that Yossi Benayoun was alert to Pablo Zabaleta who he nullified with a slide tackle worthy of the greatest defenders. Talking of great defenders, Vermaelen and Koscielny again demonstrated how to defend against a cunning attack,and so it will be a shame for Wenger that the latter will sit out the next two games having reached ten yellow cards with his felling of Gareth Barry

This was a focussed Arsenal, a determined Arsenal who sensed injustice having had Robin Van Persie’s legitimate goal ruled out for offside at the Etihad last December. Talk of an Arsenal demise has been just that. Just past the hour mark, Van Persie rose to head Song’s excellent pass past Hart, but the post came to City’s assistance, much to the frustration of the Holland striker. More was to follow, as the Premiership’s record goal scorer thought he had netted the opener and his Premiership goal number 27, but again an offside flag was raised, which replays showed to be harsh.

But where was the City response? Despite the energy of James Milner and Barry, they were unable to create anything of substance. Back came the Gunners however, but further frustration awaited. Theo Walcott was having more of a disciplined afternoon, but on 76 minutes his effort struck a post, Vermaelen was unable to follow up with Lescott able to clear from Benayoun. Aaron Ramsey came of for the Israel midfielder, when the crowd was expecting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. With time running out, there was to be a twist in the tale.

Arteta has added grit, steel and importantly experience at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield. When he robbed Pizarro, the Spain midfielder needed only take one look up and with the deadly eye of an assassin, hit a stunning strike beyond Hart for a worthy winner, and his 6th Premiership goal for the Gunners. Ramsey should have added gloss to the Gunners win, but fed by Santos, the Wales captain raced away, dragged back from his defender, but could not hit the target with Van Persie and Oxlade-Chamberlain frustratingly well placed to receive. By then Balotelli who had been yellow carded for fouling Bacary Sagna, was shown a second yellow for impeding the same player to complete a thoroughly miserable afternoon for City.

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