- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 18 December 2011 18:09
- Posted by David Clayton
City returned to winning ways as David Silva scored the only goal of the game during a thrilling top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal.
Silva’s goal ensured a 1-0 win over the Gunners and saw the Blues return to the summit having being knocked off briefly by neighbours United a few hours earlier.
The victory also means City have now completed a calendar year unbeaten at home as the title race continues to twist and turn.
Roberto Mancini made three changes to the side that started the match at Chelsea with Kolo Toure replacing Joleon Lescott, Pablo Zabaleta coming in for the suspended Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri recalled in place of James Milner.
The main talking point leading up to the game was, of course, how would the Blues respond to their first Premier League defeat of the season at Stamford Bridge last Monday?
There is, it seems, a thirst for a ‘the wheels have come off’ scenario following City’s Champions League exit and loss to Andre Villas-Boas’ side, but don’t believe the hype – the Blues are well on track for their most successful campaign ever.
Victory over Arsene Wenger’s rejuvenated Arsenal, however, was crucial ahead of the busy festive programme. Manchester United’s win at QPR earlier in the day had seen the Blues temporarily dethroned from the top of the table prior to kick-off.
That, if nothing else, underlined the need for City to keep winning and there was the added incentive of knowing that victory would leave the Gunners 12 points adrift and with a mountain to climb in order to challenge for the title.
The visiting fans’ jeers for Nasri were drowned out by loud cheers from the sell-out crowd and it was City who made all the early running with Sergio Aguero guilty of a glaring miss on nine minutes after a terrific cross from Pablo Zabaleta had played him in.
Then Mario Balotelli produced a sublime piece of skill when marked by two defenders that ended with a low drive that Wojciech Szczęsny did well to block.
Arsenal had their chances, too and grew in confidence as the first-half wore on and Joe Hart was forced to make a couple of bread and butter stops before Kolo Toure made a superb last-ditch tackle to prevent Laurent Koscielny putting the visitors ahead in what eventually transpired into a goalless first 45.
However, it took just eight minutes of the second period for City to finally end the Gunners’ resistance – and the man who started the move just had to be Samir Nasri
...City 1 Arsenal 0
The French international played the ball into the path of Mario Balotelli who skipped past his marker and fired a low drive that was parried up into the air and Aguero’s challenge was enough to see the ball fall at the feet of Silva who poked home his sixth goal of an already stunning campaign.
The Blues could – and should have doubled the lead within minutes as Nasri went close and then the impressive Zabaleta’s shot thundered against the post in what was turning out to be a thrilling end-to-end match.
There were fine performances all over the pitch, with Vincent Kompany superbly snuffing out the threat of of the dangerous Van Persie, Barry and Yaya Toure solid in the middle and Nasri, Silva and Aguero rarely giving the visitors' defence a moment's peace.
Arsenal played their part in a full-blooded encounter and Hart made at least two stunning saves before Phil Dowd blew for full-time to the delight of the home fans and make Mancini's second anniversary as City boss a very happy occasion.