- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- Sat 24 Apr 2010, 8:27PM
- Posted by Chris Nield
It was a case of as you were after today's two Manchester versus North London clashes.
Roberto Mancini's men battled hard for a point from an uninspiring game and the sprint for fourth place is becoming ever more bunched after Spurs lost 3-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the day.
Villa could, however, be the big beneficiaries in the scrum for a Champions League place though they have to face Birmingham on Sunday.
The Blues latest away point, in a six match unbeaten league run on the road, came at a high price with keeper Shay Given damaging his shoulder and having to be replaced by Gunnar Nielsen, the first Faroe Islander ever to play in the Premier League.
City spent the week leading up today’s clash with the Gunners trying to get the sour taste of a cruel derby defeat out of their system.
Ironically though, even the most hardened of City fans would have to admit feeling a certain amount of gratitude towards our cross-town rivals for convincingly beating Spurs in the lunchtime kick off.
Roberto Mancini’s men knew that victory at the Emirates would put them right back in the driving seat for the coveted fourth place going into the remaining three games of the season.
Standing in their way were a depleted although still formidable Arsenal side, who despite crumbling in the last 10 minutes at the DW Stadium last week, boasted an impressive home record winning their last five at the Emirates
In a game where defences dominated and passes frequently went astray, City never managed to concoct a real goal-scoring opportunity although a lot of heart can be taken from the way the Blues set about their business and continued to keep their dream alive.
Much of the pre-game fervour surrounded Emmanuel Adebayor’s first return to the Emirates and although City’s Togolese striker grabbed the headlines in the first meeting between the clubs this season back in September, on this occasion he had to settle initially for a place on the bench.
A cagey first half saw the City back four look imperious, in particular the impressive Vincent Kompany; restricting the Gunners to mere half chances and the occasional threatening cross from the busy Van Persie.
City’s best and only real opening of the first period was almost a storybook moment. Following a rare foray into the Gunners box, Bellamy found Arsenal legend Vieira who was eventually snuffed out before getting his shot away.
The second half came into life with the introduction of Adebayor who had previously received a less than hospitable reception from the home fans during his touchline warm ups.
A shift in formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 meant the Blues found plenty of joy breaking with their four pronged attack with the tireless Carlos Tevez customarily chasing every ball and the menacing Bellamy constantly making life difficult for the Arsenal full backs. Unfortunately though, nothing fell kindly for any of the City attackers in front of goal.
Given though who was stretched off with 18 minutes to go after injuring his shoulder diving to parry Diaby’s drive. The City number one’s injury meant a first team debut for Faroese international Gunnar Nielsen who stoutly deputised and snubbed out the remaining Arsenal threat.
In a fixture that the Blues had failed to secure maximum points in for some 35 years (a Rodney Marsh-inspired 3-2 victory at Highbury in 1975), this was a hard-earned and valuable point.
It was just rewards for the effort Mancini’s men put in, although on another day the Blues could quite easily be returning up the M1 with all three points, wrestling the impetus in the race for fourth place from Spurs at the same time.
With three games to go, there is likely to be many more twists and turns yet...