By Richard Clarke at Emirates StadiumSUMMARY
Sometimes a point is just a point – but this was worth more than that.
After a chastening week, Arsenal responded with character and guts to grind out a thoroughly-deserved draw against Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Arsène Wenger’s side rode an early storm and fell behind through David Silva’s strike.
However they forced their way back in the game and, after the restart, flew at the visitors. Mathieu Flamini swept home the equaliser and Joe Hart barely kept out Lukas Podoski's effort a few minutes later.
Manchester City gathered strength and went for the winner. But so did Arsenal. And, in the end, the visitors would have been more relieved to hear the final whistle.
If, as many argue, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are the best in the Premier League then Wenger’s men were more than a match for them today.
Quite rightly, the home side got a rousing send-off from the Emirates crowd as they left the pitch.
Arsenal had gained a point but, in addition, they had rejuvenated themselves for the remainder of the season
SETTING THE SCENE
There was enough buzz about this evening kick-off anyway. But both sets of supporters would have been energised by news of Chelsea’s defeat at Palace as they walked into Emirates Stadium.
Manchester City would take a major step towards the title with a win while Arsenal may insert themselves back into the race if they could overturn Pellegrini’s side.
Wenger made one change from Tuesday night, swapping Podolski for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Like Chelsea a week earlier, Manchester City pushed Arsenal back from the first whistle.
Attacking especially down the right, they created the overlap numerous times, stretching the home defence to the limit.
Their clearest early chance came in the third minute. Pablo Zabaleta’s run eventually led to Jesus Navas firing just over.
Gradually, Arsenal settled and created a foundation for themselves. In the 12th minute Tomas Rosicky claimed a penalty when he went down under Zabaleta’s challenge. Referee Mike Dean dismissed his appeals.
However Manchester City were still breaking with pace and, in the 19th minute, they went ahead via that method.
Podolski was robbed in midfield and Silva led the attack. He found Edin Dzeko on the left of the area. His shot bounced back off the post to the feet of the Spaniard five yards out. He swept it into the net with one touch.
Flamini slid home Kieran Gibbs’ cross shortly afterwards but was clearly offside when he received the ball.
It was part of lively response from Arsenal but, despite getting in opportunistic positions, Hart was never tested.
Samir Nasri did force Wojciech Szczesny into a low save on the half-hour. But Manchester City pressure had now become something of a rarity.
As the half closed, Arsenal were, sort of, in charge but certainly not incisive.
And that had to change if the hosts were going to get something from this game.
The drama and the pace of this game were cranked up after the restart.
Manchester City might have extended their lead when Szczesny palmed a Navas cross against the legs of Per Mertesacker and the ball trickled inches wide of the Arsenal goal.
However, ever since they had gone behind, the home side had battled.
The character of Wenger’s men had been questioned after the humbling defeats at Liverpool and Chelsea.
But Arsenal had responded this evening and, eight minutes after the restart, they were rewarded.
Podolski crossed from the left and Flamini swept the ball into the far corner beyond Hart. It was only his second goal since returning to the Club in the summer.
Seconds later, Bacary Sagna’s low cross penetrated the six-yard box and went flashed past Hart without conversion.
More Arsenal pressure would follow
On the hour, they should have gone ahead when Santi Cazorla’s deft touch sent Podolski clear on the left. His powerful, low shot hit the inside of Hart’s leg and flew behind. But the keeper did not know much about it.
Manchester City had been on the back foot but they soon responded. For the first time in 30 minutes of game play they sustained pressure.
Fernandinho’s piledriver was tipped over by Szczesny then, with 16 minutes left, Yaya Toure and Nasri were thwarted during a scramble in front of the Arsenal goal.
As we went entered the final 10 minutes, the game was level in every respect.
But Arsenal would end the game the stronger side. They pressed back Manchester City and stretched every sinew in search of a winner.
Cazorla tried to dance his way through, Oxlade-Chamberlain might have won it with an overhead kick.
Manchester City stayed strong but, when the game ended, Arsenal were on top and pressing them back.
Referee: Mike Dean
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