A Silva lining for City
Written By: Robert Halter
Manchester City were the last team to beat Arsenal when a Sergio Aguero goal separated the two sides in the Carling Cup quarter final as the Citizens looked to go a year unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium against the Gunners in the middle part of December, while victory ensured the Citizens would leap frog Manchester United to top the Premier League by two points, after the Red Devils had beaten Queens Park Rangers 2-0 away earlier in the day prior to City’s ten past four Sunday shoot out with Arsenal as City’s Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri lined up against their former Gunners. On eight minutes, City sparked a move which started with Gareth Barry and then onto Pablo Zabaleta, whose low cross was blazed over by an unmarked Aguero in the Arsenal penalty box. The Citizens created again three minutes later as Nasri’s incisive pass found David Silva, but his shot was comfortably stopped by Wojciech Szczesny. Joe Hart was called into action on seventeen minutes, after his instinctive save kept out Gervinho from close range, after Alex Song had threaded the ball through and from Robin Van Persie’s resulting corner, Aaron Ramsey delivered a low long range drive which deflected off Theo Walcott and required Hart to pull off another block to keep the ball out. But midway through the first half Laurent Koscielny failed to deal with a Micah Richards cross and his miss placed header put the ball on a plate for Mario Balotelli, who from just a few yards out turned his shot against Szczesny’s body. A strong challenge by Kolo Toure on Ramsey in the penalty area, stifled a Gunners attack on thirty five minutes. Then a neat touch by David Silva set up Aguero on forty minutes, after Song had lost the ball but after cutting inside Thomas Vermaelen, the final shot by Aguero was fired directly at Szczesny. But it was City that got the breakthrough on fifty two minutes, when Nasri slipped the ball out to Balotelli on the left, and his low ball in could only be pushed away by Szczesny onto the head of Aguero, who flicked the ball into the path of Silva, who in front of the posts turned the ball over the line. A minute later Koscielny set up Walcott, whose rasping long range blast was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Hart. Van Persie did find the back of the net on fifty five minutes but Ramsey’s ball through was unable to break City’s offside trap. On sixty one minutes, Aguero was fractions away from increasing City’s lead as his low drive went past the left post, after Nasri had set up the move. A minute later, Nasri was again in the fold as he drove the ball across the face of the Arsenal goal, with the advancing Balotelli just failing to get on the end of the ball. But the Gunners reacted on sixty three minutes, when Gervinho turned provider to Van Persie but he hit the ball straight at Hart. Koscielny then gave the ball away two minutes later, and was let off the hook when Zabaleta’s crisp strike cannoned off the foot of the bottom left post. The Gunners then pushed forward again as Walcott’s cross in was first met by Van Persie, whose shot deflected off Hart before the City keeper reacted again to stop Ramsey following up the rebound but it wouldn’t have counted as it was flagged offside. The Citizens opened up Arsenal’s defence on eighty minutes when Nasri pushed the ball through to Aguero but his snap shot was blocked by Szczesny. Another chance fell to City four minutes later but Richards was unable to convert Silva’s cross. Two minutes from normal time, the Gunners could have found a way back, after Koscielny’s cross was touched on by Van Persie but it was wasted by Andrey Arshavin’s tame effort. But the best was saved for last, following Richards foul on Marouane Chamakh and from Arteta’s free kick, Vermaelen’s ferocious strike produced a theatrical tip over by Hart. City threatened again in stoppage time but Edin Dzeko could only find the side netting and then Vermaelen unleashed a fierce strike from distance which sent inches past the upright to end the Gunners hopes as City sealed a 1-0 win.