Arsenal FC 3-1 Manchester City
Arsenal kept alive hopes of finishing third in the Premiership with a 3-1 win over Manchester City at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners moved above Liverpool after PFA Player of the Year nominee Cesc Fabregas inspired a second-half revival with a superb 25-yard effort, before Julio Baptista wrapped things up late on.
It was, though, by far from an easy second victory in four days for the hosts, who were pegged back for long periods by a determined City side after Tomas Rosicky had swept Arsenal into an early lead. With Liverpool in action against Middlesbrough at Anfield tomorrow, the Gunners could well soon be back in fourth spot.
For now, though, Arsene Wenger and his squad will relish another morale-boosting victory following what has been a troubled two months. City started brightly and inside five minutes Beasley saw a shot blocked by Kolo Toure after good work by Darius Vassell. Despite plenty of positive approach play – much of which involving Fabregas in his 50th game of the season – the home side were again frustrated by some resolute defending.
But the home side broke through in the 12th minute, after Abou Diaby won a crunching tackle 30 yards out, and took the ball to the edge of the box before pushing it wide to Emmanuel Eboue on the right. The full-back whipped over a teasing cross through the six-yard box, Nedum Onuoha hesitated at the far post and Rosicky stole in to volley his second goal of the week. City refused to lay down though and Vassell continued to cause problems with his pace down the flanks as Joey Barton saw more of the ball.
With 23 minutes gone, there was a lengthy stoppage as Diaby had to be patched up after receiving a nasty gash above his eye following an accidental boot in the face from City skipper Richard Dunne as the Arsenal man slid into a tackle. Fabregas almost picked out a run into the box from William Gallas, but Dunne was on hand to put the ball behind for a corner. Despite the best efforts of the Arsenal medical staff, Diaby – his head heavily bandaged – was unable to continue further after battling on bravely for a few minutes. Brazilian Baptista, on-loan from Real Madrid, replaced the Frenchman after half an hour.
Fabregas unleashed a stinging 25-yard effort, which City keeper Andreas Isaksson beat away to his right, before the visitors levelled in the 41st minute. Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann made a hash of his clearance, and Barton fed Michael Johnson – who weaved to the edge of the penalty area to set up Beasley for a cool finish. Lehmann then pushed an angled drive from Barton behind as the visitors went on the offensive at the end of the first half. Arsenal started the second half in determined mood, but again too often lacked a telling ball when in promising positions around the City penalty area.
Dietmar Hamann blocked Fabregas’ drive from the edge of the penalty area, with City getting 10 men behind the ball every time Arsenal looked to attack. Barton sent a low effort on target from 18 yards as dogged City sensed an upset, before Emmanuel Adebayor latched onto a long punt upfield and got in behind the defence on the left. However, the angle was too tight and Isaksson deflected the ball away at his near post.
Arsenal had a golden chance to take the lead when Rosicky dashed into the left side of the penalty area and cut the ball back to Adebayor on the penalty spot – but Onuoha made a fantastic block. The Togo striker went close again when Isaksson saved his downward header from a right-wing cross by Hleb. But the Gunners eventually took the lead in the 73rd minute. City failed to clear their lines, and as the ball dropped to Fabregas some 25 yards out, the Spain midfielder sent a brilliant strike past Isaksson for his second goal of the week.
It was soon game over as Arsenal went 3-1 ahead with 10 minutes left. Alexander Hleb weaved into the right side of the area and stabbed the ball towards the penalty box, where Baptista swept it into the bottom corner.
Match report thanks to ESPN Soccernet