City Return To The Top Of The League
The Etihad Stadium
Sunday 18th December 2011 4.10 PM
City kicked off left to right and the opening minutes resembled a sparring contest as both teams probed and passed looking for a weakness in the other. Three minutes in and after neat work by Aguero, Silva found himself running along the edge of the penalty area. His chance to shoot came and went but he played a lovely through ball between centre half and full back. Had Nasri made his run earlier a goal scorning chance might have been made.
Two minutes later and City won their first free kick of the game after Balotelli was cruelly brought down have turned on a six pence and left his marker for dead. Silva stepped up and delivered the perfect ball for the magnificent Richards to leap at. Richards missed the ball by inches but the chances were being made.
On the stroke of nine minutes Yaya won the ball on the City left. He played the ball to Barry who weighted a perfect pass to Nasri. Nasri played the ball to Aguero who was running through on goal. This was a perfect series of passes capped of with a goal scoring chance. Aguero would be odds to score, but once again he showed the profligacy in front of goal as the ball entered orbit.
Only a minute later and Silva was brought down. The ref waved play on and City were soon in the Arsenal box. Aguero had the chance to shoot but opted to pass after on touch to many. The ball was played to Richards on the edge of the box, but City`s chance had gone. As play stopped, the ref booked Arsenal`s Song.
Arsenal were lucky to have eleven men on the pitch as on twelve minutes, Richards made a run from right back into midfield and was brought down by Song in a nasty challenge that left the City player writhing in agony. The ref this time kept his cards in his pockets, when on another day Song would have been walking to the baths.
There followed a period of more jousting in midfield as Arsenal passed the ball sideways and backwards before their first shot after a ball played between Clichy and Kompany. Hart managed to parry the ball out for a corner. Another corner followed which City defended well. Hart had a chance to clear the ball quickly as Aguero found space in the Arsenal half but England`s number one seemed more keen in having a chat with his Captain.
Twenty minutes in and City attacked down the Arsenal left. Balotelli, on the right was in acres of space and had anyone looked up he was unmarked.
Ramsey should have been booked a minute later after kicking Yaya at least three times before play was stopped. City used the free kick well and passed the ball through the Arsenal midfield but failed to shoot when they had the chance.
A moment of brilliance followed in the twenty third minte when after a cross by Richards, the ball was headed straight up in the air by an Arsenal head. Balotelli marked by three players, managed to win the ball, turn and get a shot on target, showing strength, trickery and amazing balance.
Arsenal won a free kick on the City left about two yards from the edge of the penalty box on the stroke of twenty six minutes. Up stepped Van Persie. Instead of shooting the Arsenal striker chose to float a ball towards the penalty spot that was easily cleared by City heads. Richards then played the pass of the game playing a cross field pass with perfect weight to land plumb on the head of Aguero. This guy is turning into one of the best players in the premier league.
City won a corner on their right after Yaya`s shot hit a defender and went out of play. Silva curled in the ball which was headed clear. Barry played the ball in again and it was played clear. The third time the ball was played in it found Aguero who once again overcooked things and lost possession. Richards won the ball back and once again City were on the attack.
With thirty five minutes gone City were edging possession 55-45 whilst both teams had had four shots, three of Arsenals being on target whilst City had two.
City`s hearts must have been in their throats on seconds after the thirty fifth minutes when they looked to have given a dead cert penalty away after Kompany rugby tackled Van Persie to the ground. The ref looked long and hard but then waved play on. A lucky break.
City`s first yellow of the game followed after Barry was booked for bringing down Arteta. This was another mistake by the ref as the ball clearly looked to have moved as Barry caught it before he caught the Arsenal player. City were soon on the attack again, but as a theme that seemed to run through the entire first half, Aguero seemed to want to much time on the ball.
With five minutes to go, Aguero had another chance as Silva found him inside the Arsenal box. The stocky Argentinian looked to have gone too wide, but still managed a cut back shot which forced the keeper into a good low save.
With two minutes to go, Van Persie went down as if pole axed after a wonderful challenge by Zabaleta. The Arsenal players went mental fearing their sole saviour had been injured and temperatures threatened to boil over when Koscielney went in for a retaliatory foul on Aguero.
The half drew to a close in a stale mate with neither team having beaten the keeper although City in the shape of Aguero had perhaps the best chance of the game but managed to somehow blaze the ball over the bar.
The second half saw no changes as City looked to go back above current leaders United by taking all three points from Arsenal. It was the London team that kicked off, but City were soon back in possession.
The first substitution took place two minutes into the half as Djourou was replaced by Miquel. Arsenal then had a period of sustained attack which was ended by a tackle by Silva on Van Persie in the City right back spot!!!!City were then on the attack and neat work between Silva and Yaya saw the ball find Nasri on the left wing. His ball in was a poor one, but Arsenal somehow contrived to give a corner away.
First blood to City soon followed after a good ball out of defence from Zabaleta. Nasri received the ball and found Balotelli in the left wing position. He advanced toward the by line then cut into the box. Dummied the Arsenal defender and played the ball across the goal. After what seemed like an eternity, Silva, the smallest man on the pitch put the ball into the net with his head. One nil to City and the crowd went wild.
Arsenal nearly scored from the restart and had it not been for a wonderful diving save by Hart, would be sharing the points. They nearly scored again within a minute, as Van Persie chipped Hart with a wonderful shot, but he had strayed into an offside position and as he wheeled away in celebration, the referee pointed this out!
The ref was starting to make mistakes now as Kompany went on a surging run, he was kicked not once, not twice but three times. He went down on the third kick, but the man in black would seem to have missed all three offences and waved play on. Pathetic really.
Mancini`s men then had another chance with thrity minutes to go as Nasri went on a jinking run and found Aguero. The shot went wide from the Argentinian, but the alarm bells were ringing for Arsenal. Clichy had another chance within seconds of this one as he broke into the Arsenal box on the City right and managed to jink past the whole Arsenal defence. When shooting would have been the best option, strangely he opted to cross the ball and took both of City`s strikers by surprise.
Nasri had another chance to shoot on sixty five minutes but again opted to pass. Within seconds of this, Silva had been upended twenty yards out from goal on the City right. The diminutive Spaniard stood up, brushed himself off and took the shot. The ball was cleared, but only to Zabaleta who took two steps and took a shot which had the keeper beaten hands down, only for it to come back off the post.
Within seconds of the City shot, Hart was called into action to make a wonderful diving save from a point blank Van Persie header and whilst the Arsenal striker had strayed offside, it was an amazing reaction save.
This was followed by Arsenal`s second sub of the game as Walcott, who had been superbly marshalled by Zabaleta was withdrawn and replaced by Arsharvin.
The ref then seemed to have some kind of brain melt down as he booked Aguero for a very tame tackle. This break in play allowed Mancini to replace Balotelli with Milner. This allowed Yaya to move further forward and Milner to slot in in the defensive midfield role. Yaya instantly earnt City a free kick and Arteta a free kick after the Spaniard attempted to single handedly wrestle the towering Ivorian to the floor. Seconds later and Arteta should have seen red as he kicked out at Barry leaving the City player lying prone on the floor. The ref once again bottled it and rather than showing the certainly deserved second yellow to the angry Spanish Arsenal midfielder, he just 'had a word` pretty pathetic and somewhat lacking in courage if you ask me.
With ten minutes to go, Arteta should most certainly have been sent off after another kick out, this time at Kompany. The ref must have left both his cahoonas and his brain in the changing room as this time he didn`t even have a word the ex scouse Spanish player, despite the City Captain being left prone in the centre circle. It would seem that Arsenal having failed to win at football were attempting to win by more underhand tactics.
Wenger then played his last card replacing Mertesacker with Chamakh. With three defenders and three attackers on the pitch, could the London side who had been second best throughout the game sneak an unwarranted point from the match.
With six minutes to go and Kompany was once again left prone on the floor as City`s captain faced a torrid time and no protection whatsoever from the ref.
The next play saw Richards break free on the right side and make for the byline. His cutback was brilliant but inbetween the two City players advancing into the box. As the ball went out, Mancini made a double substitution, replacing Yaya and Nasri with Dzeko and De Jong.
With thirty seconds on the clock, Richards gave a free kick away twenty odd yards from goal. Everyone was waiting for a cross, but the ball was cut back to the edge of the City box for an incredible shot that looked every inch a goal until an impossible looking save by Joe Hart pushed the ball wide.
Arsenal had one more shot before the ref blew up to give City the win and a deserved win at that as they took all three points and showed a good, although rather dirty, Arsenal side how to win a match of football.
Looked like a world class left back and had Walcott in his pocket. Got forward when needed, never caught out of position and topped off the performance with the shot of the match which cannoned back off the post.
Joe Hart - 8
Micah Richards - 7.5
Kolo Toure - 7.5
Vincent Kompany - 8
Pablo Zabaleta - 9
Yaya Toure - 7
Gareth Barry - 8
Samir Nasri - 6
David Silva - 8
Mario Balotelli - 8
Sergio Aguero - 7
James Milner - 7
Nigel De Jong
He had to win this game to keep up the pressure on the chasing pack and he did. Proved that City have 'Bouncebackability'.