CITY 4 ARSENAL 2
Barclays Premier League
12th September 2009
City Richards(20), Bellamy(74), Adebayor(80), Wright-Phillips(84)
Arsenal Van Persie(62), Rosicky(88)
ref Mark Clattenburg
Arsenal Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Diaby, Song, Denilson, Fabregas, Bendtner, Van Persie – subs Eboue(76), Eduardo(76), Rosicky(52), Ramsey(unused), Silvestre(unused), Mannone(unused), Gibbs(unused)
MICAH RICHARDS PUT’S CITY IN FRONT WITH THE HELP OF ALMUNIA
This is the point at which Manchester City’s challenge to the top four begins to be taken seriously.
Few thought that Mark Hughes could mould a team out of his disparate band of desperadoes, yet they swept Arsenal aside in such an emphatic manner in the final 15 minutes of this game that it is impossible to dismiss them now.
A shame then that the headlines will be hogged by the misdemeanours of
Emmanuel Adebayor, whose idea of team unity is to ensure the entire event revolves around himself. Understandably fired up for the clash after his acrimonious departure from Arsenal over the summer, he might have relished this occasion to prove his detractors among their fans wrong
Instead, despite a magnificent performance in footballing terms, he simply displayed all the characteristics which made him so unpopular in north London.
His crowning moment yesterday came as he headed his side’s third goal on 80 minutes, effectively sealing victory in a match invested with added significance given City’s assault on Arsenal’s status as the fourth best club in the League. He clearly regarded it as a personal vindication, such was the frenzy of his celebration.
However, Adebayor should not even have been on the pitch at that stage. Reacting angrily to a feisty challenge from Robin van Persie on 72 minutes, he aimed a kick at the Dutchman’s head, with both players temporarily grounded.
Van Persie clearly bore the scars of the attack; Adebayor might claim it was an innocent follow-through, yet the unhappy relationship between the pair at Arsenal, and seemingly unnecessary force with which he connected, suggested otherwise.
However, referee Mark Clattenburg missed the incident, meaning Adebayor was still around to punish a soft-centred Arsenal team with that header, courtesy of a lovely Shaun Wright-Phillips cross.
His reaction was to turn and sprint the entire length of the pitch towards the
small contingent of Arsenal fans. Within yards of the away followers, he changed direction and slid on his knees in front of the neighbouring City fans, but the provocation was clear and the damage done.
Fans who react so easily to such juvenile stunts should, of course, bear the burden of responsibility for what followed; a hail of missiles, an attempted pitch invasion and, bizarrely, a plastic stool, which was hurled at the striker. However, Adebayor declined to respect his professional responsibilities. At least one FA charge is likely to follow this game, possibly two.
In seeking the limelight, Adebayor succeeded in diminishing the efforts of his
excellent team-mates, not least Craig Bellamy, a thorn in the side of Gael Clichy. Bellamy, Adebayor and, after a slow start, Wright-Phillips were far too good for Arsenal, building on a midfield foundation underpinned by Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong and Stephen Ireland.
Bellamy it was who scored the crucial second City goal on 75 minutes, as they swept down the right, exposing Arsenal’s continued naivety. Micah Richards burst past Alexandre Song all too easily and his cross found Bellamy, whose strike left nothing to chance, Manuel Almunia failing to get a hand on it.
And it was Bellamy who skipped through the entire Arsenal midfield on 85 minutes before feeding Wright-Phillips, who completed the humiliation with a fourth. Arsenal, however, had started better and for long periods of the second half seemed more likely to win.
They should have opened the scoring on 14 minutes when William Gallas headed wastefully over from Van Persie’s corner. Bacary Sagna then drove over from Nicklas
Bendtner’s cut-back on 17 minutes.
Yet, that counted for little when Barry swung in a free-kick on 19 minutes. Richards rose to send a looping header goalwards and Almunia, the penalty villain at Old Trafford two weeks ago, touched it against a post, only for the rebound to hit him on the head and bounce in.
The blow seemed to paralyse Arsenal. They had been passing their way around City, but they suddenly seemed overwhelmed, unable to find their man and vulnerable to City’s counter-attacks.
It took a while for them to regain their composure but slowly they began to create chances and then snatched their equaliser. Tomas Rosicky, on as a substitute for his first appearance after 20 months out with knee trouble, played an incisive ball into Van Persie’s feet to set up the equaliser, the Dutchman striking with his right foot past Shay Given.
Despite Arsenal’s subsequent capitulation, Rosicky marked his comeback with an 88th-minute reply, latching on to Cesc Fabregas’s through-ball to finish calmly. It was not all good news for City, though, with Brazilian forward Robinho ruled out for three to four weeks with a stress fracture just above an ankle.
ROB DRAPER WRITING FOR THE MAIL
SWP CELEBRATES HIS GOAL
Richards put us ahead but then Robin Van Persie equalised a quarter of an hour into the second half and it was anybody’s game. We were the ones who stepped up. I put us 2-1 up and then Adebayor made it 3-1 with 11 minutes to go. Adebayor had been taking fearful abuse from the Arsenal supporters throughout the game. He had also been involved in an incident with Van Persie where he had trodden, deliberately or not, on Van Persie’s head, and cut him above the eye. That had just ramped up the hostility towards him even more and made the atmosphere increasingly feverish. So even though Adebayor scored at the opposite end from the away section, he celebrated by running the entire length of the pitch and throwing himself to the turf in front of them. I’d never seen anything like it. I doubt anybody in the stadium had. I understood why he did it but I also understood there might be consequences. Even I felt a little bit nervous about it and I went over to try to lead him away as a hail of missiles were thrown at him. That was a crucial moment in our season and in all our careers. We had got off to a great start. We were about to record our fourth straight victory and we were starting to feel invincible. Adebayor was playing brilliantly. He was unstoppable. He was looking like the complete forward that so many had predicted he would become. With him playing like that, and with the strength in depth we had acquired, we would be a danger to anybody. We beat Arsenal 4-2 in the end but the result was overshadowed by the furore that raged around Adebayor. I was a bit puzzled by the stamping controversy. I saw Van Persie shake Adebayor’s hand after the game but then a few minutes later he was accusing him of stamping on his head. If you stamped on my head, I ain’t shaking your hand. I certainly ain’t going crying to the press and the authorities after it. If somebody did that to me, I would wait until next time around. I wouldn’t want the boy banned. I don’t know whether Manu had a big problem with Van Persie (there were rumours afterwards that they had disliked each other when they were teammates at Arsenal) but it all seemed rather strange. I’d had a really good game and the team had played superbly but no one was talking about that. They were talking about Adebayor and how long he was going to be banned for. If the celebration didn’t get him, the stamp would. In the end, he was banned for three matches for violent conduct for the stamp and escaped with a £ 25,000 fine and a suspended ban for the celebration.