Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 4 April 2009, 15:00 KO
City: Given, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge (Gelson 17), Zabaleta, Kompany (Elano 37), de Jong, Wright-Phillips, Robinho (Sturridge 75), Bellamy
Unused: Hart, Bojinov, Benjani, Garrido
Booked: Dunne, Zabaleta
City Man of the Match: Nedum Onuoha
This match was City’s last chance to double another team this season: With Sunderland home and away victories in the bag, but home defeats to the teams all their remaining away fixtures after today, there can be no other. Unfortunately for City, Arsenal had the boost of Fabregas back, while Ireland had been injured in training.
Arsenal had the most of the possession in the opening 5 minutes, but it was City who could have been in front but for a great Almunia save. Bellamy beat the offside trap and Nigel de Jong fired towards goal, but Almunia reacted well.
But it turned out to be a bad start for the visitors, when Adebayor was gifted a free header in the box and he put the home side in front after just 9 minutes. The cross was from Fabregas, after Robinho was very harshly penalised for a shoulder-to-shoulder with Sagna.
City almost equalised a minute later, as a misplaced Shaun Wright-Phillips cross nearly caught Almunia out, but he was able to hold on to the ball and not take it over the line as he backtracked.
With 17 minutes on the clock, Bellamy looked to have taken a bad knock on his injured knee from Toure, while Bridge had to leave the field through injury. Dunne then went into the book for a foul on Denilson, before Toure forced a great save from Given.
Wright-Phillips produced a moment of brilliance when he turned Clichy on the halfway line superbly, before breaking towards the Arsenal box. He slipped the ball into Richards, who was free in the box and only an excellent save denied City an equaliser.
City were taking the game to the hosts and should have been level after Wright-Phillips found Gelson unmarked, with acres of space in the box. The Swiss international turned and shot, rattling the outside of Almunia’s post.
Zabaleta left Walcott needing treatment after a tough tackle, but he clearly won the ball, despite the home fans’ calls for a yellow card. Toure then went into the book for a cynical hack on Robinho, as he tried to break away.
City’s day got worse when Vincent Kompany was caught late after making a pass and his injured toe taking the brunt of the challenge. He couldn’t continue and had to be replaced by Elano, just before the break.
But, despite City’s response, it was the home side who scored next. Just after half time, a fantastic ball over the top by Fabregas found Adebayor in the box, who took it down and around Given, before slotting it into the net.
And the goal turned the game on its head completely, as Arsenal were in full control. City perhaps didn’t deserve to be 2 goals down, but Arsenal began to step up their game further and it looked like the visitors could collapse.
Walcott started to look more and more dangerous, with several drives from range. Each of them were close, but not enough to test Given in the City goal.
Around the hour mark, City had a good spell of possession and were threatening to pull one back. A deflected volley from Zabaleta gave City a corner, which Almunia flapped at, but was just able to clear. From the second corner, Zabaleta had another effort from range, but Almunia was able to grab the ball at the second attempt.
Arsene Wenger was fuming after 63 minutes, when Arshavin tried to shield the ball but ends up kicking Richards. Both stayed down, but the ball fell to Adebayor in the box. Howard Webb stopped play and awarded City a free kick.
Elano almost played Richards in behind Clichy, but there wasn’t quite enough pace on the ball, before an Onuoha break into the Arsenal half tricked the home side’s midfield and the cameraman, so I didn’t see what happened.
A minute later, Walcott broke down the right flank and his low cross bobbled past Shay Given, but there was Richard Dunne to clear.
Richards was set free in the Arsenal box, again by Elano, but the bounce of the ball allowed the defence to get back and his cross was deflected out for a throw in.
Bendtner came on for Adebayor and had, possibly, the worst shot of the season. From the left side of the box, he had a clear run on goal and fired closer to the left corner flag than the goal, with his right foot. Nevertheless, it was another chance created.
The game finished with City trying to grab a consolation with a shot from Sturridge, before Arsenal attempted one last attack, but the final whistle was blown. City were still in the game until the second goal went in, and from then Arsenal never looked like giving the lead up. It was a valiant effort from City, but, as with most away games this season, they didn’t get that slice of luck they need.