Manchester City took full advantage of Laurent Koscielny’s early sending off to earn a 2-0 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates, despite the loss of Vincent Kompany to the game’s second red card late on.
Although Edin Dzeko missed the penalty for which Koscielny was dismissed, City dominated the encounter, particularly in the first 45 minutes, and rarely looked in danger of failing to reduce their arrears at the top of the table back to seven points. The visitors took the lead midway through the first period through a powerful James Milner strike before Dzeko got himself on the score sheet just past the half-hour mark to put the result virtually beyond doubt.
Arsenal acquitted themselves better after the break, but City were able to see out the match even after their captain was controversially given his marching orders for a two-footed challenge on Jack Wilshere with 15 minutes remaining.
Following Manchester United’s win over Liverpool earlier in the day, the pressure was on City to get the three points and avoid a potentially insurmountable gap developing to Manchester United.
Roberto Mancini’s men got an ideal early helping hand just nine minutes in courtesy of an awful piece of defending from Koscielny. With Dzeko looking to get on the end of a dropping ball in the box, the France international wrapped his arms round the forward’s midriff to bring him to the ground. Despite the protests of the Arsenal supporters, there could be no complaint about the referee’s decision to not only award a penalty but also to give Koscielny his marching orders for the denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Dzeko took on the responsibility himself from the spot but struck a poor effort down the middle that struck the knee of Wojciech Szczesny and traveled onto the post before bouncing along the goal line and into the Polish stopper’s grateful hands.
But City were not deterred and controlled proceedings as Arsenal appeared to struggle to come to terms with their plans being ripped up sp early in the match. Per Mertesacker came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but it did little to stem the tide of the opposition’s attacks.
The breakthrough arrived in the 21st minute as Arsenal lamentably failed to deal with a quickly taken free-kick. With Arsenal’s players dawdling and watching on, Carlos Tevez found Milner down the right of the area and the tireless midfielder produced a finish of real quality as he struck a powerful first-time effort into the far corner.
Dzeko had already missed another fine chance with a poor header by that stage, but the striker finally found the back of the net as he doubled City’s lead in the 32nd minute. Pablo Zabaleta showed greater determination to win a challenge down the right, setting up Milner to cross low into the box. Tevez’s initial effort at the near post was saved but the ball only traveled as far as Dzeko who tapped the ball home for his 10th goal of the season.
In truth City will have felt that they could have gone into the break further in front. Another chance came and went as Javi Garcia’s header was cleared off the line from Jack Wilshere.
Arsene Wenger appeared to have a positive impact on his team at the break as they came out and showed greater composure and made the match more of a contest in the second half.
Yet, City still had further chances to extend their lead. First Dzeko failed to pick out an unmarked Tevez in the box before the Bosnian did find his strike partner minutes later but Tevez was denied as he tried to go around Szczesny.
Arsenal’s improved showing could and perhaps should have earned them a way back into the match. Substitute Olivier Giroud missed their best chance of the contest with just under 20 minutes remaining as he headed poorly over the bar when unmarked in a central position six yards out.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, referee Mike Dean pulled out his red card for the second time in controversial circumstances. While technically it appeared as though Kompany went in two-footed on Wilshere, there appeared little recklessness in the challenge and the defender’s anguish at the decision was clear for all to see.
Regardless, the decision had no impact on the final result. As Theo Walcott’s shot was cleared off the line by substitute Joleon Lescott in the final minute so went their last hope of a dramatic comeback as City picked up a deserved three points.