Result: Ozil records 15th assist of the season as Arsenal hold out for crucial three points
First-half goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud were decisive as Arsenal closed the gap on Premier League leaders Leicester City to two points thanks to 2-1 victory over Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium this evening.
The home side spurned a string of chances after the restart and it ended up being a nervy final few minutes when Yaya Toure brought an end to City’s away drought, but the North Londoners eventually held on to extend their unbeaten run over Manuel Pellegrini’s men to four matches.
It was a largely unremarkable first half until the 32nd minute when City playmaker Kevin de Bruyne raced away down the right flank after the ball had been played into his path by Sergio Aguero.
The Belgian had David Silva and an advancing Aguero for company, yet he went for goal himself and saw his effort fly wide of the far post.
On reflection, it was the game’s defining moment because within 60 seconds of De Bruyne’s miss, the Gunners had broken the deadlock.
Arsene Wenger’s side had offered little as an attacking threat up until that point, but they were sparked into life when Laurent Koscielny picked out Mesut Ozil deep inside City territory.
The German in turn fed Walcott, who having cut back inside, sent a curling effort from the edge of the box flying beyond the reach of a helpless Joe Hart.
It was a moment that rocked the visitors, but it seemed that they had got themselves through to the break just one goal behind, only for Eliaquim Mangala to commit a costly error in time added on.
The centre-back put his teammate Fabian Delph under pressure with a pass and Arsenal pounced as Giroud punished the mistake with a low finish that went underneath Hart.
It was the 15th goal of the Frenchman’s season and also the 15th assist laid on by Ozil. The Gunners remained in the ascendancy for much of the second period, but they found beating Hart for a third time a tough ask.
Joel Campbell shot over when well placed, while Aaron Ramsey’s effort was bravely blocked by the visiting goalkeeper.
The Welsh midfielder also had another opening in the 69th minute, but from 16 yards out he shot high and wide. Those failings seemed to provide City with some confidence and their belief was further enhanced when Toure scored their first Premier League away goal since September 26 eight minutes from time.
Having exchanged passes with former Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna, City’s captain for the night lofted a shot into the top corner of Petr Cech’s net.
Substitute Wilfried Bony and De Bruyne were both unable to find the target as the game drew to a close and that proved to be the end of City’s challenge as Arsenal successfully negotiated their way through the four minutes of stoppage time with minimal drama.
While Arsenal are now on Leicester City’s coattails ahead of the Boxing Day clashes, the Citizens are six points adrift of the surprise table-toppers.