Man City 1 (Fernandes 28) Arsenal 3 (Adebayor 9, 88, Eduardo 26)
Predictions can be right, predictions can be wrong, and predictions can be right for completely the wrong reason.
I said in my preview post that the match could well be decided by the tussle between Sagna and Petrov. I meant that with Petrov on such fine attacking form, the Frenchman would have to be on top of his game to stop him. In reality, the tone of the match was set the other way around. Petrov gave the ball away, showed absolutely no interest in winning it back, or tracking Sagna, who was flying down his wing, and our right back squared the ball for Adebayor to fire home, via the back of Micah Richards. When you’re on a hot scoring run, they all go in, and that was his tenth in eight matches. There was more to come.
The big man turned provider halfway through the half, when he nodded a Clichy cross perfectly into the path of Eduardo, who was a fraction offside. His chest trap turn took Richards out of the game, before an acrobatic overhead into the bottom corner seemed to seal the match before it had even got going.
Moments later though, City were back in it, and it was a rare error from the usually reliable Clichy, who tried to shepherd a ball out of play, only for Corluka to rob him and set up a tap in for Fernandes. Clichy’s reaction showed just how much he cared – he was gutted to make such a basic error, and I’m sure it won’t be repeated.
The second half was quite cagey, but you always felt there was another goal in the contest. With minutes left, it arrived, and it said everything about Adebayor. Hacked down on the halfway line by Elano (whose resultant booking rules him out of the Manchester derby), Andre Marriner played the advantage rule for the first time in the game, and with Hleb and Fabregas steaming forward, Adebayor got up and charged into the box, in time to slot in the third. The guilty Elano wasn’t even in the picture.
It was the sort of individual performance from Adebayor that has the press and fans purring, and scoring in eight consecutive games shows just how far he’s come this season. Wenger attributes much of it to his attitude, suggesting that he has now grown up both as a player and a person. The troublemaking behaviour we heard about when he arrived simply isn’t present.
On the other hand, City’s performance saw even the usually calm Eriksson fuming on the touchline. Two of the goals could’ve been prevented by midfielders tracking their men, and given that those midfielders were the talismen of Petrov and Elano, it doesn’t set the right tone for the rest of their team. Their season is in danger of petering out, but let’s hope Eriksson whips up a storm for their trip to Old Trafford next weekend. Can’t see it somehow.
Elsewhere, United slipped up, playing poorly at Spurs and needing a last minute equaliser to pinch a draw, a Dawson own goal, to match his concession of a penalty and red card against the same opponents in the cup last weekend. Quality.
Chelsea, meanwhile, drew at Portsmouth, putting into perspective the somewhat hysterical reaction of some Arsenal fans when we drew at the same ground over Christmas. None of the top three have won there this season.
The Ivory Coast marched on in the African Nations Cup, hammering Guinea 5-0, and should now reach the final where they are likely to face an Essien-inspired Ghana. The form of the Chelsea man makes me glad he’s away from the Premiership right now – he is single-handedly dragging his country through the tournament.
So once again, we enter an international break looking down on our rivals, though I suspect by the time we face Blackburn next Monday, United will be back on top.