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Arsenal fightback thwarts City title charge

THE EQUALISER: Mathieu Flamini celebrates his goal

MANCHESTER CITY were unable to fend off Arsenal’s fight back at the Emirates but given Chelsea’s earlier mishap at Selhurst Park they can afford the luxury of a point.

David Silva gave the visitors a richly deserved first half lead before Arsenal fought back with Mathieu Flamini’s second half equaliser, which provided a morale-boosting conclusion to a difficult week for Arsene Wenger’s side.

The draw meant City ended the evening in third place, two points behind the leaders Chelsea but with two games in hand, and while they should have finished off Arsenal prior to their equaliser they matched Chelsea’s result here and surpassed Liverpool’s.

Arsenal, contrary to their recent defeats at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, did not concede during the opening stages but their early optimism was tempered by City’s level of control. The visitors were patient in possession and circulated the ball in Arsenal’s half with relative ease and their opener felt inevitable.

It came with their first menacing foray. Silva, who was the first half’s outstanding performer, drove through the middle and picked out Edin Dzeko on the left. The Bosnian struck a post with his shot but Silva had continued his run to deliver the visitors a richly deserved lead to claim his seventh goal of the campaign on 18 minutes.

Arsenal had claimed a penalty seven minutes earlier when the hosts felt Pablo Zabaleta had felled Tomas Rosicky inside the City penalty area but referee Mike Dean correctly waved play on as the hosts otherwise struggled to make an impression.

City had Arsenal exactly where they wanted them. Often Santi Cazorla found himself in advanced positions but seldom did the diminutive Spaniard have a convincing option in front of him. The overplayed and overworked Olivier Giroud had another anonymous game against a top-draw side but could hardly be held culpable.

Once Manuel Pellegrini’s side established their lead they played within themselves and Arsenal appeared incapable of preventing their visitors setting the tone. The hosts’ docility appeared to represent their acceptance that the Premier League title would end up elsewhere this season, as has been the general narrative in the build-up to this contest.

It was a similar pattern at the beginning of the second period until Arsenal stole an equaliser on 53 minutes to undermine such convenient conclusions.

Mathieu Flamini scuffed Lukas Podolski’s cross into the City net for his second of the season to renew Arsenal’s sense of purpose. Podolski almost gave his side the lead on 61 minutes but dragged his shot wide when unmarked inside the City penalty area. It was the finest opportunity of a brief spell during which Arsenal pressed City and looked to fashion a lead that would restore their faint title hopes.

James Milner replaced Jesus Navas on 64 minutes and although City did not recapture their earlier dominance they should have regained the lean on 75 minutes when Dzeko lashed an effort wide as City piled forward.

Both sides continued to push for the winner during a frantic conclusion but had to settle for a point.

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