Manchester City 4-2 Arsenal: Adebayor Returns To Haunt Arsenal

EmmanuelAdebayor

Manchester City swept Arsenal aside in a dramatic encounter, with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring against his old club, then infuriating their fans with his provocative celebrations.

Although Manchester City had won their opening trio of Premier League games without conceding a single goal, today’s visitors Arsenal were perceived as representing by far the sternest test so far of City’s ambitions to nab one of the coveted top four finishing spots. And while defender Kolo Toure was turning out for the first time against the team for whom he had made more than 200 appearances, most eyes were focused on Adebayor, thanks to the somewhat prickly nature of the striker’s £25 million divorce from Arsenal in the summer. Adebayor had struck in every league game so far this season, and the perception was – rightly or wrongly – that if he maintained this hot streak against the Gunners today it would represent a source of distinct personal pleasure for the big Togolese.

City were shorn of some of their other expensive forward options, with Robinho and Carlos Tevez dropping out with respective ankle and knee problems picked while the pair were on international duty in South America. For Arsenal, Andrei Arshavin was missing after aggravating a groin injury during Russia’s midweek World Cup qualifying over Wales in Cardiff, but skipper Cesc Fabregas did return after a hamstring problem.

The visitors started the brighter, controlling possession in characteristic manner. With the Gunners initially dominant, Adebayor’s first contribution was an unfamiliarly defensive one as he employed his aerial prowess to head away a Fabregas free-kick. And Adebayor was soon in the action again as he caught the business end of a robust challenge from old strike/sparring partner Nicklas Bendtner.

Manchester City began to gain a slight foothold in the game, with a ball from Gareth Barry finding Adebayor powering into the Arsenal box. Fabregas got back to clear, and it took another sharp block from Abou Diaby a minute later as the Old Trafford fall guy curtailed a Shaun Wright-Phillips run. Arsenal were still the more dangerous of the two teams though, with Robin van Persie’s corner finding William Gallas unmarked six yards out from Shay Given’s goal. But, despite some surprisingly prolific goal-scoring form already this season, the France centre-half wastefully nodded over.

And the Gunners were made to pay for such slackness almost immediately, as Micah Richards met a deep Barry free-kick with a looping header. Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia reacted sluggishly and the ball rebounded off the post, back on to the head of the diving Almunia, before nestling in the back of the net for the second unfortunate Arsenal own goal in a Manchester fixture in two weeks.

Despite the goal for City, Arsenal continued to dominate the play. Alexandre Song surged forward and found Bendtner, who could only direct his shot straight at Given for a comfortable stop. Manchester City seemed unable to retain possession, despite a paucity of challenges coming in from either side, and balls were being pumped in the general direction of the totemic Adebayor without much evidence of either imagination or quality.

The game became increasingly scrappy over the last ten minutes of the first period, with neither side able to inject any real fluidity into their passing. What few quarter-openings there were all came to nothing; van Persie rounding Toure, before putting his cross into an area where no teammate was waiting, and Stephen Ireland being gifted the ball in a dangerous area by Denilson, only to overrun it and allow Gael Clichy to clear.

The first opportunity of the second period came to Arsenal – Thomas Vermaelen unable to direct a Fabregas free-kick under the City crossbar. After ten minutes Arsene Wenger decided his side needed fresh impetus, and Tomas Rosicky replaced Denilson for his first competitive Gunners appearance in the better part of two years.

Arsenal were linking up well again, as they had in the first half, and although City were looking solid at the back, they were conceding an increasing numbers of set-pieces. One of these was almost headed in by Gallas, but Given was there to make the save, and Bendtner blazed the rebound wide from an awkward angle. Given was called into action again minutes later, pushing away a scorching strike from the advancing Vermaelen, and Wayne Bridge doing well to defend van Persie’s efforts to create something with the rebound.

It was left to Manchester City to try and spring the counter-attack, which they very nearly did as Ireland and Bellamy combined, only for the Welshman to curl his strike straight at Almunia. And as City had capitalised after an Arsenal miss in the first half, so the Gunners struck back in the second. Robin van Persie received the ball on the edge of the penalty box, rode a City challenge, and showed great poise to swivel and shoot past Given into the far corner.

Adebayor drew blood from van Persie as his boot caught the sliding Dutchman painfully, and Arsenal were left collectively hurting soon after as Bellamy restored the City lead. Richards was again involved, bursting past Song into the Arsenal box and sliding across for the Wales captain to convert. Wenger threw on Eduardo and Eboue in search of a second equaliser, but Manchester City should have made the three points safe immediately after this change. Adebayor beat Eboue, Bendtner and Gallas, before seemingly laying the third goal on a plate for Wright-Phillips, who somehow contrived to miss.

The England winger redeemed himself instantaneously though, crossing for Adebayor to head in. However the Football Association will surely be interested in the striker’s celebrations, as he sprinted fully 90 yards to where the enraged Arsenal fans were situated. A plastic seat was sent in his direction, as was a yellow card from referee Mark Clattenburg.

The tepid first half was a distant memory now. Adebayor was soon again in the action, clearing a Diaby goal-bound effort off the line. There were shouts for a penalty as an Arsenal corner appeared to make contact with Barry’s arm. Nothing was going in the Gunners direction though, as City poured forward again and Wright-Phillips was able to chip past Almunia from a Bellamy pass to give the scoreline a real gloss.

Tomas Rosicky reduced the arrears, collecting a visionary Fabregas ball and rolling it into the net. But if anyone needed any further indicator that it was not going to be Arsenal’s day, it duly came when van Persie cut in from the right and curled in a beautiful strike – only to see it cannon back off Given’s post.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on September 12, 2009.

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