1-0 (Pires [pen] 61 mins)
- Match reports
- 22 October 2005 18:30
- Posted by Leon Collins
Good afternoon from a sunny London as City visit Highbury for the final time.
There were two shocks in the Blues' line-up as Andy Cole and Nedum Onuoha were forced to miss the game through leg injuries. David Sommeil makes his first appearance since the opening day of the season in place of Onuoha, and Antoine Sibierski replaces Cole. On the bench, Yasser Hussein makes his first appearance on a league teamsheet, and he is joined there by Micah Richards.
The hosts' new stadium is peeking over the horizon just a few hundred yards away as the club mark 93 years at Highbury. The word on the streets outside from the home fans was that they badly need a win today, but the word in the stands came from some piped chanting played as the teams emerged....
After some cagey opening exchanges, Arsenal forced a corner in the seventh minute when a testing Lauren cross was sliced over the bar by the retreating Reyna. This spurred the Gunners on the attack even more, but City's latest central defensive partnership of Distin and Sommeil stood firm.
The hosts had a gilt-edged chance after 13 minutes, a great ball from Lauren found Henry who managed to get it across even after a good stop by Sommeil. The star striker found Pires six yards out in the centre, but he could only put the ball yards over the bar with a goal begging to be taken.
Barton earned the game's first booking after 23 minutes, throwing the ball away after already conceding a free kick.
The Blues were absorbing the pressure from the hosts, and as the half wore on they had several corners but none really threatened Lehmann.
Musampa had decent chance on 34 minutes, rifling a left foot shot in from 20 yards after good work from Vassell, but the Dutchamn's effort flew two yards wide of the right hand post.
Vassell picked up a yellow for a foul on Lauren after 36 minutes.
The home side were seeing more of the ball, but to the sound of grumbling from their fans the players were unable to convert their pressure as yet.
Fabregas had an opening with a minute left, sprinting towards a great through ball but James raced out to collect, meaning that the sides went into the break all square.
Straight after the restart, the referee riled both sets of fans by booking Mills and Pires after the City player reacted to Pires stepping on his hand after a tackle. The Arsenal player even found the time to engage Stuart Pearce in conversation after receiving his card.
On 55 minutes, a great ball from Sommeil found Musampa in space on the left, and his shot forced Lehmann to get down low to his right and keep the score intact.
And on the hour there was controversy as James was adjudged to have brought Henry down in the area, the striker falling into the keeper as he touched the ball towards the corner. Pires stepped up and put the ball into the bottom right hand corner of James' net. Having been the home fans worst enemy previously, the referee was for the time in their good books.
A pair of yellows in quick succession to Gilberto and Musampa again had all supporters on referee Riley's back. Shortly after, on 65 minutes, Reyna got a shot in that was always curling away from the outside of his right boot.
With 18 minutes left the entire stadium was baffled by another controversial penalty. Jordan brought Bergkamp down, and as Pires stepped up to take the kick he appeared to dummy and then tried to pass it to Henry! Everyone stopped, except Distin who had the presence of mind to belt the ball clear. The Arsenal players appealed for a retake, but Riley waved play on! The general consensus in the stands was that no-one had ever seen the like in top class football.
The Blues had the ball in the net with 11 minutes to go, Vassell nodding in a lovely Barton cross, but the striker was marginally offside.
City were throwing everything into the game now, and the home side were taking huge criticism from their own fans. Distin and Bergkamp clashed with six minutes left, but the referee chose to cool tempers.
Jihai and Richards came on for Mills and Musampa with five minutes to go.
With 88 on the clock Flamini broke through on the left and hit the side netting from a tight angle.
In stoppage time Richards turned and shot but being unsighted the ball flew well wide.
And that was it - two controversial spot kicks, only one converted, a plethora of bookings and a marginal offside goal disallowed for the Blues - a game with a bit of everything except the point that City at the very least deserved.