Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City: Flamini helps Gunners restore some pride

Manchester City missed an opportunity to go top of the Premier League after being held to a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

Chelsea’s shock 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace earlier in the day meant victory for City would see them sitting at the summit on goal difference.

By Greg StobartA missed opportunity for Manchester City and some pride for Arsenal that was reflected in warm applause for the home team at the final whistle following a difficult recent spell.

City looked every inch potential champions in the first-half as they came here and dominated the ball, just as they had in the Manchester derby on Tuesday night.

Arsenal didn’t know how to handle their attacking movement and the visitors deservedly led at the break after David Silva – the best player on the pitch – stabbed in from close range.

It felt like a matter of waiting for a second City goal but Arsenal responded in the second-half with great heart, equalised through Matthieu Flamini, and rattled the visitors. Towards the end, they looked the more likely side to find a winner.

And that looked set to come to fruition as David Silva deservedly broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, with City dominating the first half at Emirates Stadium.

However, a rejuvenated Arsenal emerged after the break, and Mathieu Flamini pulled the hosts level to boost their own flagging title hopes.

City are now two points adrift of leaders Chelsea, over whom they have two games in hand, and one behind Liverpool, who have played one game more than Manuel Pellegrini’s men. Arsenal, meanwhile, are three points further back in fourth.

Pellegrini stuck with the XI that so memorably triumphed 3-0 over local rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday, and the visitors looked hungry to pick up where they left off, Jesus Navas curling an effort just beyond the left-hand post from 18 yards in the opening few minutes.

Tomas Rosicky went down under the challenge of Pablo Zabaleta in the penalty area 12 minutes in, but referee Mike Dean waved away Arsenal’s protests, with replays suggesting that it was probably the correct call.

Silva‘s opener capped a swift counter-attacking move from City – the Spaniard tapping home from close range after Edin Dzeko had rifled an effort against the left-hand post.

Flamini, whose late own goal cost Arsenal in a 2-2 draw with Swansea City on Tuesday, soon had the ball in the back of the net at the other end as a lively first-half continued, but his strike, which bounced over the head of visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart, was rightly ruled out for offside.

Samir Nasri – booed and heckled throughout on his former stomping ground – was next to have a pop at goal, but his tame attempt was comfortably collected by Arsenal stopper Wojciech Szczesny.

The match lost some of its pace and flow as the opening period progressed, with niggling challenges threatening to turn it into an ill-tempered affair.

The face of the game changed eight minutes into the second half when Flamini atoned for his midweek misfortune by diverting Lukas Podolski’s cross into the back of the net from a central position in the penalty area, drawing Arsenal level with his second goal since returning to the club last year.

Podolski scored and provided an assist on Tuesday and he almost repeated that achievement on Saturday, but Hart did just enough to keep out his powerful drive on the hour mark.

Arsenal were unable find a winner, but a point against the title favourites will come as a relief to manager Arsene Wenger, who has endured a difficult week after marking 1,000 games in charge with a 6-0 defeat at Chelsea last weekend.

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