Manchester City break their Arsenal curse as red cards rule at the Emirates
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Premier League: Arsenal 0 Manchester City 2
Manchester City recorded their first league win at Arsenal for 38 years after a fractious and controversial clash at the Emirates.
First-half goals from James Milner and Edin Dzeko saw City return to being seven points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United, but only told half the story of a stormy encounter.
Laurent Koscielny’s red card after just 10 minutes for hauling down Dzeko in the box set the tone for the afternoon, even if the Bosnian striker then missed the resulting penalty.
Dean showed another red card, and one that looked far more undeserved, to City captain Vincent Kompany for a lunge on Jack Wilshere with 17 minutes remaining, but by then the game was all but over.
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Dean showed half a dozen more yellow cards as a game that promised much ended in rancour and recrimination. How ever much people had paid to witness this game, it was not worth it to view such an unedifying 90 minutes.
The defeat leaves Arsenal still off the top-four pace, six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and with a trip to Stamford Bridge looming on Sunday.
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Arsene Wenger will point to the red card as a reason for the defeat but that would only partially forgive another questionable display from his side.
The big moment of contention came after just 10 minutes. Koscielny and Dzeko both fell to the ground in the box and initially it was unclear what had happened as Wojciech Szczesny raced off his line to clear.
But Mike Dean pointed immediately to the penalty spot and then produced the red card for Koscielny. On second viewing, however, Koscielny could have few complaints, other than that it is the kind of tussle centre-halves and centre-forwards get involved in about two dozen times in the average game. But the red card was possibly more debatable. Dzeko at no stage had control of the ball, but in an era where we are all too used to this double punishment, it was duly meted out and the game was irreparably damaged.
The Emirates was stunned, and only slightly pulled out of its disillusionment when Dzeko’s penalty rebounded off first Szczesny’s legs and then his right-hand post before nestling in the relieved goalkeeper’s arms.
Arsenal were still level, but there were the small matter of 80 minutes to play. Wenger decided to sacrifice Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to bring on a centre-back in Per Mertesacker, a decision that looked reasonable while the scores were level, but that was not for long.
On 21 minutes Arsenal were still complaining about a free-kick conceded by Lukas Podolski when Carlos Tevez slipped the ball through to Milner and the England man struck a fierce shot across Szczesny and into the far corner of the net.
A man down, and a goal down, this was turning into a nightmare for Arsenal and it got even worse just past the half-hour mark when Milner crossed from the right flank, Tevez saw his shot saved by Szczesny but Dzeko was on the spot to turn the rebound into an empty net.
Arsenal looked deflated and defeated. Wenger’s big pre-match gamble, to select Abou Diaby in place of Mikel Arteta in the centre of midfield, was rendered meaningless. The Gunners were seeing very little of the ball and City were in complete control.
A half-chance fell to Walcott on the edge of the box, but he skied his shot high and wide and he knew just how that looked to supporters who had been reading about his wage demands all week.
The body language of the Arsenal players said it all as they trooped off at half-time although the jeers were saved for the referee Dean, who has handed out both Arsenal’s Premier League red cards this season.
The official’s day didn’t get any easier as the Emirates crowd bayed for punishment any time a City player committed a foul in the second half.
Wenger had clearly has some strong words with his team at the break as there was a renewed purpose about Arsenal, and he replaced both the labouring Diaby and ineffective Podolski with Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey within 15 minutes of the restart.
City were not too bothered. They kept Arsenal at bay without too much effort although the introduction of Giroud at least gave their defenders something to think about.
The French striker should have halved the deficit after 72 minutes when, after Szczesny had superbly denied Tevez, Giroud headed Cazorla’s corner over when left unmarked in the box.
Two minutes later and it was 10 v 10 after Dean adjudged Kompany’s challenge on Wilshere to be dangerous play, something that certainly looked debatable on seeing the replay. The Belgian’s challenge was certainly robust, but the decision looked a harsh one to say the least.
A Walcott effort was cleared off the line by Joleon Lescott, and Arsenal had a few penalty shouts and more railing at the officials and at some of City’s sportsmanship before the end came.
City could afford to shrug that off as they headed back north to contemplate another title battle with their neighbours United. Arsenal have no such designs, but at least don’t have to wait long for Wednesday’s FA Cup third-round replay against Swansea to get this wretched day out of their system
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Wilshere, Diaby (Ramsey, 61) Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Mertesacker, 12), Podolski (Giroud, 58), Walcott.
Subs not used: Mannone, Santos, Coquelin, Jenkinson.
Booked: Vermaelen, Wilshere. Sent off: Koscielny.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Garcia, Milner, Tevez (Lescott, 77), Silva (Kolarov, 90), Dzeko (Balotelli, 88).
Subs not used: Pantilimon, Sinclair, Suarez, Rekik.
Booked: Milner, Clichy, Garcia, Barry. Sent off: Kompany.
Referee: Mike Dean