Richards (19) Bellamy (73) Adebayor (79) Wright-Phillips (84)
Van Persie (62) Rosicky (87)
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 12 September 2009 17:00
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
Nobody was singing "And now you're gonna believe us" - they were too busy celebrating quite the most exhilarating City win of Mark Hughes' reign - but the manager's smile of triumph spoke volumes.
For all those who had pointed to City's "soft" start as the reason for a perfect three-match opening to the League campaign, here was a compelling riposte as sweet as summer wine to thrill the majority of a Stadium record 47,339 crowd.
Four goals against Arsenal, three of them in a stupendous 11-minute second-half spell that had even the previously-animated Arsene Wenger slumped on the bench, easily outweighed the two goals that Shay Given conceded, his first of the season.
But if a day that started without injured South American duo Robinho and Carlos Tevez was a notable triumph for manager Hughes and his super-charged Blues, then the 90 minutes belonged to Emmanuel Adebayor, who was a man on a mission.
Cruelly abused in relentless fashion by the Arsenal fans whose feelings had switched from love to hate for their one-time Togolese hero, he took some physical punishment too from his erstwhile Arsenal team-mates.
So when he magnificently headed City's third goal after 73 minutes from Shaun Wright-Phillips' cross, Adebayor's only regret was that it was not at the end housing the travelling army. No matter. He raced the length of the field to mock them with his celebration.
Referee Mark Clattenburg had no option but to book him, understandable as his reaction was on an afternoon that would have tried the patience of a saint. And he admitted later: "It was a moment of real joy. In those few seconds I allowed emotion to get the better of me.
"I was over the moon, but I realise now it was the wrong thing to do, and I'm sorry because I don't want it to detract from what was a fantastic performance from the team."
Adebayor, who had fully expected the vitriol from Arsenal fans, made his presence felt in the field as well as at set pieces, and Cesc Fabregas stayed down for treatment after the striker landed on his instep early on.
Arsenal were seemingly impervious to the optimism sweeping through the Stadium, and William Gallas should have headed them in front from a 13th-minute corner but the unmarked centre-back directed the ball over the bar.
Joleon Lescott was an early booking for a foul on Denilson as referee Clattenburg signalled that he would keep a firm grip. Gael Clichy still bodychecked Craig Bellamy soon after as the eager Welsh flyer put Arsenal's back line in jeopardy. It was superbly breached just a minute later.
Gareth Barry flighted in a deep free kick that saw Richards rise above the pack to despatch a soaring header that came off the inside of the far post and went in off fingers of the desperately stretching Manuel Almunia.
But first-half openings were rare, though Stevie Ireland stayed too cool just before the interval whistle when he allowed Clichy to recover and rob him in the penalty box.
The second half provided the magic moments that City fans will cherish and produce in pre-derby evidence that the Blues are the real deal already in a season of rich promise.
That said, it took a brilliant equaliser from Robin van Persie to shake them into action, the Dutchman turning Lescott superbly before finding the gap between Given's dive and a post after 62 minutes.
Cue the City fightback. Barely ten minutes later, Arsenal trailed again when Richards crossed for Craig Bellamy to sweep almost nonchalantly beyond Almunia's despairing dive.
The Londoners were still recovering their bearings when Adebayor reaped his deserved reward to make it 3-1 after 79 minutes, and with 84 minutes on the clock SWP took advantage of Bellamy's swift break from well inside City's half to chip Almunia.
He celebrated on jelly legs as if drunk on the moment, and the intoxication spread throughout the Stadium, savouring a 4-1 lead over Arsenal with "We're not really here."
Lord help the rest of the division when we are, then. Sure, City relaxed to allow Van Persie to hit the post and substitute Tomaas Rosicky to nick a goal back on 87 minutes and jangle a few nerves. Hughes will work to eliminate any more such finishes.
But City, like their new super striker Ade, are really up and running. Yes, the League is a marathon, but it never hurts to come out of the blocks like Usain Bolt.