Sunday, 8 April 2012

Arsenal vs Manchester City: Match Report

Arteta's late strike sink's City's title bid

By Archie Barnett

If Manchester City's title hopes weren't already dead, it seems they are now. City started the day five points behind rivals Manchester United, however the Reds had extended that lead to eight points before the Blues kicked off after a 2-0 victory against QPR thanks to a dubious penalty decision.

City ideally had to win to still be in contention in the race for the title but a 25 yard strike from Mikel Arteta was enough to sink a lackluster City side.

Will he ever learn?
Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe
The first ten minutes were a sign to come after Yaya Toure picked up a yellow card, and it seemed that we would pay for this ill discipline later in proceedings, and sure enough Mario Balotelli was the one sent for an early bath towards the final stages of the match. 

Arsenal started well, and took the game to us, and a clash between Yaya Toure and Alex Song meant the Ivorian international was forced to come off due to a knee injury in the first 20 minutes, which hardly helped the cause.

Despite constant pressure, the Blues somehow managed to keep Arsenal out. Robin van Persie was unfortunate to see his header rebound off Thomas Vermaelen as the Belgian got in front of the Premier League's top scorer's effort before it hit the bar. 

After keeping Arsenal out for half an hour, City started to creep into the game, and Balotelli earned a corner for us on 25 minutes. Up stepped Gareth Barry with a set piece worked on the training ground, as Balotelli got away from his man before hitting his effort straight at Wojciech Szczesny. 

Balotelli rarely isn't not in the headlines anymore with his outrageous decisions both on and off the pitch and the volatile Italian should have seen red after his lunge at Song was what could only be described as a leg breaker of a challenge. 

Perhaps it was fate as he was then booked for a high and needless tackle on Bacary Sagna, which surely activated the warning lights and the world was expecting him to be replaced at half time. 
However, it was not to be and Balotelli continued his role on City's left wing during the second half. City were slowly starting to get a foothold into the game, and a Samir Nasri cross found the head of Sergio Aguero, who would have scored had it not been for Pablo Zabaleta putting the Argentine off balance. 
The game started to open up as we entered the last half an hour and Robin van Persie should have put Arsenal ahead after catching Vincent Kompany out, before heading Alex Song's accurate cross onto the post.  
Kompany looks dejected at the final whistle
Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe
City were fortunate again when Joe Hart brilliantly got down to his right to save a Sagna shot. The ball rebounded off the post, and somehow the ball didn't find it's way into the net after Yossi Benayoun’s two yard strike was blocked by Joleon Lescott, one of the few players that showed true passion throughout the tie.
However, the killer blow came in the 87th minute after David Pizzaro gave the ball away and Arteta released a ferocious strike that found Joe Hart’s net, with no one really at fault. It was a sweet strike that slotted in nicely, one that was beyond Hart’s control.

Things got from bad to worse when Mario Balotelli picked up a second yellow card for a reckless challenge on Sagna, which resulted in Mancini telling the press that his fellow Italian might not feature for the team again this season.
Overall, it was a disappointing afternoon in north London and will surely be one that all associated with Manchester City will want to forget. However, James Milner and Roberto Mancini still insist the title race is not over, despite falling 8 points behind of leaders Manchester United.
For me, the only players that showed extreme passion were Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and Joe Hart. This was reiterated by the fact they were the only 3 to go over to the City fans and apologise, despite being the best players on the pitch for City and my hat certainly goes off to the trio.

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