Cesc Fabregas saved Robin van Persie's blushes with a stunning 80th-minute winner against leaders Manchester City on Saturday. The Spaniard played a neat one-two with Alex Hleb before rifling home a thunderbolt into Kasper Schmeichel's previously impregnable net. Sven Goran Eriksson's side came into this game with three wins out of three and having not conceded a goal. That record looked set to continue when Schmeichel saved a penalty from Van Persie in the 65th minute. Even though it was missed, the spot-kick proved the turning point in the game. Until then it had been a high-spirited, high-quality and evenly contested game. After it, Arsenal dominated and fully deserved their late winner in the end. They now have three wins and a draw from their four competitive games this season. For the second home game in succession there was an injury in the warm-up. On the opening weekend of the season that fate had befallen Fulham keeper Antti Niemi. This time was Philippe Senderos who had to drop out. It was very unfortunate for the Swiss centre back, and indeed Arsenal, given that another centre back, William Gallas, had picked up a groin injury midway through the first half at Blackburn just last Sunday. The late change meant Gilberto stepped up from the bench and into the heart of the Arsenal defence for his first game of the season. Emmanuel Adebayor also made his season's debut up front in place of Eduardo, who was named as a substitute. The fit-again Tomas Rosicky came in for Theo Walcott while Manuel Almunia's selection in place of the injured Jens Lehmann (Achilles) had been well publicised beforehand. It seemed that summer had finally broken out in North London for the visit of the Premier League leaders. The November weather earlier in the week had made way for temperatures more fitting for mid-to-late August. The opening was understandably cagey. There were chances - Van Persie's fizzing effort over the bar from distance and Emile Mpenza's shot into the sidenetting after Michael Johnson burst through - however, in reality, both sides were cancelling each other out. Arsenal were a lively attacking force but the muscular Manchester City defence largely kept them at bay. The visitors were quick on the break but not as swift as the home team's backline. The hosts lost one of that quartet in the 19th minute when Bacary Sagna limped off. The Frenchman, who had won his first full cap in midweek, had not recovered after bashing his back in a collision with Mathieu Flamini. Denilson came on. As the half wore on, Manchester City took more authority in the game. Elano and Martin Petrov's efforts from distance were not likely to trouble Almunia but they were more than Arsenal were creating at this stage. The buzz finally returned to the home side just past the half-hour. Flamini and Van Persie saw a chink of space in the area and let fly. Both strikes were smothered at close range. In the 36th minute they conjured up their best move of the half so far. The sliding Denilson intercepted a clearance from Vedran Corluka and fed Adebayor. The striker scooped the ball on to the scampering Fabregas on the right and he fired across goal. The outstretched foot of Van Persie must have missed the ball by inches. A couple of minutes afterwards Rosicky's clipped cross set up the Dutchman for one of his trademark volleys. This time he miscued. Shortly afterwards Van Persie sent an inviting ball across goal but Adebayor could not convert. Schmeichel was starting to have a frantic afternoon. Arsenal were beginning to fall into their familiar trap of creating much, converting nothing. But at least they had wrested control of the game and, in fairness, the visiting defence had already proved their robust qualities this season. Overall, the first half had been a top-quality Premiership clash with both sides having their successes. And the second period would start the same way. In the opening seconds, Arsenal were on top and Adebayor saw his drive deflected wide. But the Manchester City reply would be swift. The visitors were trying to exploit Arsenal's right back position where Flamini was filling-in. Elano's reverse ball sent Petrov clear and he drove a vicious shot across the face of goal. Then, in the 61st minute, Mpenza escaped on the right and Almunia rushed out and spread his body expertly to block. There was also a penalty shout when Toure dispossessed Johnson. The visitors seemed to be on top but, it had been a see-saw game, so it was no surprise to see Arsenal win a penalty in the 65th minute when Micah Richards brought down Hleb. Van Persie's drive was hard enough but poorly directed and Schmeichel blocked with his body. The Dane was still over-employed however. In the next few minutes he clutched the Dutchman's drive and spectacularly turned over a piledriver from Fabregas. The penalty had not gone in but it had turned the tide decisively in Arsenal's direction. They battered the visitors' goal in the minutes that followed. Eventually they got the decisive goal that was just about deserved through Fabregas. Eduardo nearly added a second when he bristling drive was turned aside by Schmeichel. In injury time the Manchester City keeper came up for a corner and actually won a header. Almunia held on to that chance and his team did likewise for a valuable three points.
Referee: Chris Foy
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