MAN CITY 0, ARSENAL 2
Manchester City lost further ground in the race for the Barclays Premier League title following their home defeat by Arsenal.
Goals from Santa Cazorla and Olivier Giroud inflicted a second home league loss of the campaign which leaves second-placed City five points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Yet before the draw at Everton a week ago, City had been on level points with Chelsea at the top of the table as they had wiped out the Londoners’ once-healthy lead following a terrific run which included nine straight wins in all competitions.
This was also City’s first defeat in 15 games in all competitions, a run stretching back to the start of November when CSKA Moscow won at the Eithad Stadium in the Champions League.
It was a disappointing display by Manuel Pellegrini’s side which was second best as Arsenal recorded a first win against City in six attempts as they reignited their challenge for a top-four finish. They are fifth and have five wins and one draw from their last seven away league games.
City’s manager admitted his side was lacking in creativity saying: “We didn’t play a good game. We ran a lot, had a lot of possession of the ball, but we did not have creative ideas to find space against a team which defended very well.
“You worry when you concede two goals from set pieces, though I doubt it was a penalty which was important as it changed the game and we were nervous after that.
“I don’t want to make it an excuse or the fact we have one player but not another because we didn’t play well and that is why we didn’t win.”
City had big guns Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero back in their starting line up after injury while Edin Dzeko return on the bench after a lengthy lay off to provide more forward option.
They made three changes from the side which drew at Everton as Eliaquim Mangala, the injured Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetic made way for Kompany, Aguero and James Milner.
There was also firepower on the City bench which included Stevan Jovetic and Frank Lampar while Arsenal welcomed back key midfield man Aaron Ramsey after injury as he replaced Tomas Rosicky.
It was clear from the start that this would be no repeat of last season’s goal fest at the Etihad Stadium which City won 6-3.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute that either side created a chance, and then Olivier Giroud’s header was deflected for a corner by Kompany.
The breakthrough came midway through the opening half when Arsenal were awarded a penalty when Kompany blocked Nacho Monreal who burst into the box and Cazorla made no mistake from the spot.
City, badly in need of a spark, brought on Jovetic for Milner at the restart and immediately looked more of a threat as Aguero’s effort was well saved by keeper David Ospina, City’s first on-target goal attempt of the match.
Suddenly City laid siege to the Arsenal goal and only resolute defending kept them at bay as the hosts swarmed forward in search of an equaliser.
But midway through the half, City were caught by a sucker punch as Arsenal went 2-0 ahead as Giroud headed home a Cazorla free kick from eight yards.
City’s response was to throw on Jovetic and Dzeko as they went with three out-and-out strikers in the latter stages.
Yet it was Arsenal who almost added a third goal when Alexis Sanchez brought a fine save from Hart as City rarely troubled the Gunners, despite having an abundance of attacking riches on the pitch.