1-0 (Barton 41)
- Match reports
- 26 August 2006 00:00
- Posted by Leon Collins
City took three points for the first time this season, for the first time at home since March and for the first time over Arsenal since December 1991 with an heroic performance. The Blues rode the storm when the Gunners hit the woodwork twice in the first half, either side of Joey Barton's penalty that came about when Sinclair was hauled down by Hoyte. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff in the second half but City hung on to the noisy delight of the home faithful.
Team news: Stephen Jordan replaced the suspended Ben Thatcher, Ousmane Dabo returned for Reyna and Bernardo Corradi was back from his own ban in favour of Samaras.
For the visitors, Rosicky made his league debut, Henry was up front after sitting out the Champions League match on Wednesday and the much-talked about Theo Walcott was on the bench.
The opening 10 minutes of the match were uneventful until Paul Dickov went to ground under pressure from Djourou, but the striker’s appeals for a penalty were waved away by Uriah Rennie.
At the other end, Distin earned an ovation for expertly shepherding the ball out of play with van Persie snapping at his heels.
14 minutes were showing when Henry bore down on goal but Nick Weaver stopped the Frenchman’s low shot with his legs and City cleared the danger.
The game began to open up, and City had their first chance on 18 minutes when Sinclair superbly chested down a long crossfield pass to beat Hoyte. He found Barton, steaming into the area, and the midfielder’s first-time effort with his left foot was only just wide of the right hand post.
Richards won a corner after 22 minutes, and from the header out Sinclair’s shot from 20 yards flew a couple of feet by the outside of the same upright.
The Blues went close again after 32 minutes, with Sinclair’s nifty back heel finding Dickov. The Scot turned and crossed to Corradi, who climbed to head the ball downwards, but Lehmann dived to his left to keep the scores level.
A minute later Arsenal were on the attack with Rosicky, but Jordan was on hand to get in the way of his shot.
Weaver saved the day with his legs again on 35 minutes, when a rebound off Distin fell to Van Persie, but City’s keeper was alert to the danger and City’s fans breathed again.
This rousing game nearly had the opening goal on 39 minutes, when Van Persie rattled the right post with Weaver beaten.
But shortly after City took the lead from a Joey Barton penalty. Sinclair was hauled down in the area by Hoyte as he went to control a high crossfield pass. Barton stepped up and smashed the ball nearly straight and off the underside of the bar to give the Blues the lead. The first City goal of the season had the home fans off their seats, as Stuart Pearce had wanted before the game.
There was still time for more drama before the break, with Toure’s header from a corner hitting the bar and Corradi bringing a save out of Lehmann from close range.
The new half started like the previous one had finished, with Paul Dickov rounding off a good move with a shot that Lehmann collected easily.
A minute later, Stephen Jordan was booked but Henry’s quickly taken free kick was read well by Nick Weaver, who had no problems making his save.
Van Persie went close on 63 when Fabregas fed him, but the Dutchman’s left-footed effort rolled tantalisingly wide of Weaver’s left post.
Henry threatened on the edge of the box on 69 minutes, but a masterly tackle from Dunne ended the danger.
With 16 minutes to go City took a free kick quickly and Sinclair raced down the right flank, but his low cross could not reach Corradi and Lehmann pouched the ball.
The Gunners were now trying their hand from range, with Gilberto’s effort with 10 minutes left not troubling Weaver.
Fabregas whipped in a corner with seven minutes left, and van Persie’s header from six yards was just inches wide.
There was a cacophony of noise as the home fans saw their team hang on with a gritty display, although the Blues still tried to get forward as much as they could to try to keep Arsenal at bay.
The longest three minutes anyone could remember were added on, but the final whistle went and the Blues were winners for the first time this season, and had beaten Arsenal for the first time since the formation of the Premier League.