Premier League champions Manchester City remained seven points adrift of leaders Manchester United after a 2-0 win away to Arsenal on Sunday, with both teams finishing a man down in an eventful match.
First-half goals from James Milner and Edin Dzeko put City in a commanding position against Arsenal, already reduced to 10 men after Laurent Koscielny was sent off in the 10th minute for bringing down Dzeko inside the box. Although Dzeko’s penalty following Koscielny’s red card was turned onto the post by Wojciech Szczesny, with the Arsenal goalkeeper gathering the rebound, it was not long before Milner and Dzeko himself made the man advantage count.
“I don’t know about the sending off, but it was a penalty 100 percent. I told myself after missing the penalty I had to score,” Dzeko said.
The visitors too were a man down at the Emirates Stadium when, 15 minutes from time, City captain Vincent Kompany was dismissed by referee Mike Dean for a challenge on Jack Wilshere.
Second-placed City, who failed to sell their allocation of seats for the match after some fans complained about tickets priced at ￡62 (US$100) each, were briefly 10 points adrift of United after their cross-town rivals beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford earlier on Sunday.
“It was a good result for us because to play here is always difficult,” City manager Roberto Mancini said.
“Today, we started the game well with a good attitude, but the sending-off [of Koscielny] made a difference,” he said.
The Italian confirmed that City would appeal Kompany’s red card, saying: “It was not a sending-off, he went in with his left foot in front and I think the referee made a mistake.”
Arsenal, without a major trophy since 2005, remained sixth in the table as City enjoyed their first league win away to the Gunners since 1975.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to blame Dean’s decision to dismiss Koscielny for this defeat, saying: “I thought we started too timidly. We lacked the initiative, of course it became difficult with 10 men, but I believe we had a lack of concentration for both goals.”
Goals from Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic gave United a 2-0 lead before Liverpool substitute Daniel Sturridge pulled one back for the visitors.
“It obviously doesn’t matter when you play Liverpool, it is a big game and I hope it’s an important result,” United manager Alex Ferguson said.
Van Persie gave United a 19th-minute lead when he swept in Patrice Evra’s cross from about 8m out.
It was the Dutch striker’s 17th Premier League goal this term and 21st in all competitions since he arrived at Old Trafford in a ￡24 million pre-season move from Arsenal.
United made it 2-0 nine minutes after half-time when full-back Evra’s header from van Persie’s free-kick deflected in off center-half Vidic.
However, three minutes later Sturridge, on at the start of the second half, scored on his Premier League debut for Liverpool when he followed up the rebound after David de Gea saved skipper Steven Gerrard’s shot from outside the box.
It was Sturridge’s second goal in as many games for Liverpool following his move from European champions champions Chelsea after he was on target in the 2-1 FA Cup win over Mansfield last weekend.
However, United, who have won a record 19 English titles compared to Liverpool’s 18, held on for a hard-fought victory.
Liverpool remained eighth in the table, albeit now 24 points adrift of United, and manager Brendan Rodgers praised his team’s resilience.
“In the second half, after we conceded the [second] goal, we could have given up the fight but that is the nature of the group,” Rodgers said.