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19 Dec 2011

Manchester City returned to the Premier League summit after a brief hiatus as they beat Arsenal in a thrilling game.

Following Manchester United's lunchtime win over QPR, David Silva pounced after Mario Balotelli's shot was saved to score the only goal of the match.

Sergio Aguero could have made the win more comfortable but fired over early on, while Pablo Zabaleta hit the post.

Arsenal had a number of chances though, and Joe Hart saved from Gervinho, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.

Robin van Persie could not find his 20th goal of the season either, with a shot saved and a goal ruled out for offside, as the hosts restored their two-point lead at the top over their city rivals.

Following their defeat by Chelsea last Monday, the result was the perfect response from Roberto Mancini's team, who ended Arsenal's unbeaten run of eight games while maintaining their 100% home record this season.

It also means that City remain unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium in 2011, having drawn just two of 28 games in the last year.

While it was an even contest, Aguero should have put City ahead in the first five minutes when Gareth Barry found Zabaleta down the left in a flowing move.

But although Aguero controlled the resulting cross he blasted his shot over the bar from 10 yards out.

City's leading league scorer had another chance soon after, but was snuffed out by the recovering Arsenal defence when he cut inside from the inside right channel.

A frantic opening period also saw Hart twice save in quick succession, first stopping Gervinho's angled shot and then tipping Ramsey's effort from the resulting corner round the post.

The Gunners defence again featured four centre-backs and was not so smart when Per Mertesacker allowed Balotelli to shoot from close range, but keeper Wojciech Szczesny saved well and showed further signs of his recent improvement when he saved another Aguero effort.

Former Arsenal players Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure were named in the City line-up but French midfielder Nasri's mixed form continued when he gave the ball away, leading to another Ramsey chance.

Having reached the break without conceding, the Arsenal defence was forced into a reshuffle two minutes after the re-start when Ignasi Miquel replaced Johan Djourou.

That meant Laurent Koscielny moved to right-back, and he was nowhere to be seen when Balotelli checked his run to stay onside and cut in from the left to play a key part in the goal.

His shot was saved again by Szczesny but when the ball broke to Silva, following Aguero's headed attempt, the Spaniard made no mistake from two yards out for his sixth of the season.

Walcott almost hit an instant reply, in what was one of his first meaningful contributions, and there followed a pulsating period in which Aguero fired wide, Hart saved from Van Persie and Zabaleta hit the post from 20 yards.

Nasri also played a fine one-two with Silva but overhit his pass with Balotelli waiting to pounce.

City boss Mancini took steps to secure the lead as the visitors looked for an equaliser and with the game entering the final stages, Hart was again on hand to tip Thomas Vermaelen's drive over the bar.

And the City keeper was relieved to see another long-range Vermaelen effort curl past the post as City hung on.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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