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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 12 May 2021
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Welcome to the second game of the day, where City simply must win. If they don;t it’ll be hard to say it’s not game over given United’s lead. But it’s not going to be easy. Not only have Arsenal been in form – last week’s defeat at QPR notwithstanding – but they badly need the points themselves to overtake Spurs.

The teams:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Song, Walcott, Rosicky, Benayoun, van Persie. Subs: Fabianski, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Djourou, Jenkinson, Chamakh.

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Toure Yaya, Barry, Milner, Aguero, Nasri, Balotelli. Subs: Pantilimon, Richards, Pizarro, Dzeko, Kolarov, Tevez, De Jong.

Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)

And we’re off…

Arsenal the better team already in the first two minutes, really hemming City in.

Yaya Toure hobbling after a strong challenge from Song. Not good for City. Arsenal still in control and playing most of the football.

Another strong period of pressure for Arsenal with Van Persie going down for what mnight have been a penalty and City desperately defending a corner, Rosicky heading over from only yards out.

On second watch, it was actually Vermaelen that cleared that off the line fromthat corner from Van Persie! Wrong end for the Belgian!

And Toure is going off for Pizarro. Losing the Ivorian’s power is a blow, but Pizarro may provide the poise that City have lacked in recent weeks, a fine passer.

That should be a red for Balotelli. That is a disgrace of a tackle. He knew what he was doing. Lost the ball, and went in high and with studs on Song’s shin. Atrocious.

Song just slides in to impede a Nasri run, resulting in cheers from the Arsenal crowd. Oh they like that. Song superb there, and quickly back on his feet after that awful Balotelli foul.

Balotelli almost forces a City opener. It would be harsh given Arsenal’s blistering start to the game and that tackle. City finally starting to come into it now.

Tame enough at the moment, a few abrasive tackles notwithstanding. Sagna was just hobbling off there. City struggling to get into this in attack, with Sergio Aguero generally isolated.

HALF-TIME: Arsenal 0-0 Manchester City

Arsenal started supremely, but it’s calmed down significantly since then. Not much space in the last 20 and City really struggling for inspiration.

And the second half is underway…

Nasri just went in angrily on Arteta, sparking this second half into life. It had been muted with both sides jabbing each other around the centre of the pitch.

City suddenly looking the better team there, with Aguero manufacturing a chance from the break. Koscielny and Vermaelen do well to shepherd him out though. This isn’t a *bad* performance from City but, again, that’s not good enough. They really need to push for the win.

City beginning to press much more now with only a Benayoun slide preventing Zabaleta’s cross into the box. Arsenal on edge.

And a bit of an incident now as substitute Andre Santos has words with mario Balotelli after the latter goes down rather easily under a tackle. Santos booked for, ahem, reprimanding Balotelli.

What a chance! With City on top Arsenal break swiftly, but Van Persie can only head onto the post from a delightful clipped ball! He really should have scored there!

Interestingly, Duncan Castles reports in the Sunday Times today that Mancini has lost patience with Balotelli and will sell him to either Milan or Inter in the summer. Castles’ sources tend to be impeccable and, if so, that means any ban could mean this is Balotelli’s last game for City.

But Balotelli almost opens the scoring! Kompany does superbly to head across goal from a free-kick and, with his back to goal, Balotelli tries a bicycle kick but misses it. It was difficult to be fair and a goal would been creditable.

Van Persie curls the ball into the net but he’s offside. Just drifted a bit too early as Arsenal looked to complete a break.

Arsenal have reclaimed control of this game now and are really hemming City in. A goal seems a matter of time. There’s a real buzz about the Emirates.

How did that not go on!? What a miss, what a save, what a stroke of luck!! Walcott’s shot is tipped superbly onto the post by Hart and it should have been an opener for Vermaelen. Somehow, falling backwards, he contrived to send it towards the other post with Rosicky also unable to force it in. Incredible. City should be 1-0 down.

Nasri going off to a chorus of boos, as City desperately look for a winner. Kolarov coming on as City look to stem the flow, with Balotelli going up top. Again, an odd move given that they need to win this. An inherently defensive one.

Very open and flowing game at the moment. Again, Arsenal having the better of it. City’s main threat seems to be coming from set-pieces.

Tevez taking his training top off, about to come on…

An Argentine for an Argentine as it’s Aguero who makes way for Tevez.

With five minutes of normal time left, Arsenal bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as they look to seal this. On review, they probably deserve it.

GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

And, with four minutes to go, there is: the goal that Arsenal deserve and the one that may well finally kill off City’s title chances! Mikel Arteta strikes from distance, drilling into the corner with Joe Hart well beaten. Great strike… and Arsenal start doing the Poznan. Insult to injury.

RED CARD! Mario Balotelli

And there that is too. A real inevitability about that. Balotelli receives a second booking for a poor tackle on Sagna. Again, deserved.

One last chance for City as Kolarov and Tevez line up a free-kick…

Kolarov strikes it straight into the wall and Arsenal break superbly, but Ramsey – right in front of goal – blazes it well wide!

FULL-TIME: Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City

And that’s it! Not just for the match but arguably for the title race and Balotelli’s City career. In truth, it’s no less than all parties deserve. Arsenal were well set up and the more confident team, City were meek and Balotelli a disgrace. An amazing afternoon. And quite possibly a decisive one.

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