Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City: Gunners boost title hopes
By Andrew Dickson
Last Updated: 22/12/15 10:29am
Arsenal stole a march on their title rivals as they overcame a slow start to beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Emirates.
City were the better side for the opening 30 minutes as they looked to close the gap on league-leaders Leicester, but it was Arsenal who enhanced their title challenge as two first-half goals proved to be enough for victory.
Theo Walcott opened the scoring with a spectacular, curling effort before Olivier Giroud drilled past Joe Hart; Mesut Ozil providing assists for both goals to continue his impressive run of form this season - the Germany international has been involved in 17 goals from 16 games.
City generated more possession after the break, and halved the Gunners' lead when Yaya Toure guided the ball into the top corner.
But it wasn't enough for Manuel Pellegrini's side as Arsenal held out to sit second in the table going into Christmas, just as they have been on the last two occasions they have won the league.
The fact Wenger's side led at all at the midway point would have surprised most inside the stadium after the early stages.
While City did not necessarily dominate possession or opportunities, they had the better of both without stamping their mark on the game.
David Silva and Fernandinho were both off target before Kevin De Bruyne - who had earlier kicked a corner-flag while trying to take a quick corner - went much closer with a low drive.
That chance seemed as though it might be a prelude for a goal and indeed it was, but not at the end many would have expected.
Just as City were starting to genuinely threaten, it was Arsenal who edged ahead against the run of play through Walcott.
Ozil passed to Walcott inside the penalty area and at first it looked like the ball might get caught under the England international.
But Walcott steadied himself superbly before bending a fantastic curling strike beyond the reach of his international colleague Joe Hart.
Falling behind clearly dented City's confidence, and they were in more trouble soon after as the in-form Giroud made it 2-0.
Eliquiam Mangala played a sloppy cross-field pass and when Ozil eventually took possession, he once more supplied for Giroud to drill through Hart's legs and in.
Being two up going into the second half gave Arsenal confidence and City were slow to muster any kind of reaction.
Indeed, the hosts poured forward at every opportunity with Joel Campbell shooting over, then at Hart, before slipping in Aaron Ramsey who was only denied a brilliant team goal by the City 'keeper.
City had introduced Raheem Sterling at the restart and Wilfried Bony midway through the second half but neither made much impression, with the former seeing a weak penalty claim waved away.
Toure's attempt to win a free shot on goal from 12 yards was also dismissed by the referee and again it looked as though the correct decision was made.
As time started running out, City were at their most threatening since it was goalless but Jesus Navas panicked and tried to square rather than taking a shot himself.
There was no such problem for Toure, who passed a magnificent effort into the top corner to reduce the deficit and change the complexion of the match with eight minutes left but the visitors were unable to clinch an equaliser as Arsenal prevailed.
Arsenal: Cech (6), Bellerin (6), Mertesacker (7), Koscielny (6), Monreal (6), Ramsey (7), Flamini (6), Walcott (7), Ozil (8), Campbell (7), Giroud (6)
Subs used: Gibbs (5), Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Chambers (5)
Manchester City: Hart (7), Sagna (6), Otamendi (5), Mangala (5), Kolarov (5), Fernandinho (6), Toure (8), Delph (5), De Bruyne (6), Silva (6), Aguero (5)
Subs used: Sterling (5), Bony (6), Navas (5)
Man of the match: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)