Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 12 September 2009, 15:00 KO
City: Given, Richards, Lescott, Touré (c), Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Ireland (Petrov 73), Barry, de Jong, Bellamy, Adebayor
Unused: Taylor, Onuoha, Zabaleta, Vidal, Weiss, Sylvinho
Goals: Almunia (OG 20), Bellamy (74), Adebayor (81), Wright-Phillips (83)
Booked: Lescott, Adebayor, de Jong
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: Craig Bellamy
With three wins out of three games going into this match, City were confident. But they were facing a tough Arsenal side, who had hit the ground running this season and were very unlucky to have lost at Old Trafford, so there were plenty of City fans who would have been happy with a point at kick off.
And it was the away side that started the better. Neither side were able to carve out any chances early on, but it was Arsenal who got their foot on the ball and were able to pass it around comfortably, with City chasing it.
On 10 minutes, Adebayor burst his way into the box from the City left, but he was unable to cut the ball back as he was crowded out by his former team-mates. And 4 minutes later, Gallas missed a golden opportunity to give the visitors the lead – heading over from a corner, when he found himself unmarked at the back post.
Both Lescott and Sagna were booked for similar challenges, but while City were able to deal with the opposition’s free kick, Arsenal couldn’t. Barry whipped in a cracking cross and Richards met it beautifully, but the goal has to go to Almunia, after the hit the post and went in off the keeper’s back.
Arsenal tried to hit back immediately, but it was their former centre-back, Kolo Touré, who was taking control with some excellent tackles, excellent interceptions and excellent breakaway play.
With 10 minutes of the first half remaining, Wright-Phillips burst into the Arsenal box after the ball was given away by Fabregas, but Song was on hand to dispossess the tricky winger as he tried to break clear.
And it could (and probably should) have got better for City just before the half, as Ireland broke into the Arsenal half and carried the ball into the box, but his indecision allowed the defence to get back and crowd him out.
City had the first chance of the second half, with Diaby blocking an Adebayor effort, but from then on in Arsenal took control.
First, Adebayor was needed to clear from a corner, before Bellamy nicked in ahead of Sagna to clear the danger. It was then up to the City captain to lead by example – and he did, taking the ball away from Bendtner and getting it to safety.
Gallas then had a diving head straight at Given, before the City stopper made his best save of the match. From an Arsenal corner from the right, Vermaelen headed with power and Given’s reactions prevented it from crossing the line, while Bridge was able to clear.
On the hour mark, City got their second chance of the half. Ireland broke with pace and found Bellamy, but his first time shot from the edge of the box was straight at Almunia.
A minute later, the ball was down the other end of the pitch and in the back of the City net, courtesy of van Persie, as Lescott dived in and missed the ball. It was City’s first goal conceded of the season.
With 20 minutes to go, Adebayor was floored on the edge of the Arsenal box, but somehow the referee decided it was an Arsenal free kick, much to the delight of the visiting fans.
But on 74 minutes, it was City who were laughing. Richards skipped past a weak challenge from Song and into the Arsenal box. From there, he got his head up and found Bellamy, who lashed the ball into the net for 2-1.
Adebayor, perhaps geared up by the taunts of the away fans, showed his former club what they were missing. A piece of individual brilliance down the City left should have resulted in a goal, when his superb run past four defenders presented Wright-Phillips with a tap in, but he somehow slid the ball wide.
But then the former Arsenal forward got what he wanted. A good advantage played by the referee let Wright-Phillips break free down the right hand side and his cross was perfect for the unmarked Adebayor to head into the net with power. He picked up a yellow card for sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate with the Arsenal fans – not that he’d care too much!
And two minutes later, it got better. Arsenal pushed forward, looking for a way back into the game, and, on losing possession, Bellamy carried the ball up the pitch and found Wright-Phillips free, who dinked the ball over the onrushing Almunia for 4-1.
Four minutes later, Rosicky pulled a goal back for the visitors, slotting the ball past Given with the City defence asking for offside. It wasn’t, and the goal was given.
And it could have been a tense finish, when the City defence switched off a minute later and van Persie flashed a shot across goal, hitting the post. Given then had to save from a deflected Bendtner shot, but City had done enough and beaten the Gunners at home for the second successive season.
The clean-sheet record had gone, but at least it’s still four wins in four for Mark Hughes and City. The result might have been harsh on Arsenal, but the simple fact was City took their chances, while the visitors didn’t. It’s looking like an exciting season.