Arsenal and Manchester City played out a cracking draw on Saturday, despite the lack of purpose in front of goal from both sides.
Sergio Aguero continued his goal-poacher form away from home with his first-half opener, but Jack Wilshere restored parity after a fine link-up play with Aaron Ramsey.
Alexis Sanchez placed Arsenal in the ascendancy with a marvelous volley before an awkward defending from Arsene Wenger’s men allowed Martin Demichelis to force a point for City.
Fresh from his brace on England duty in the wake of his £16m move from the other Manchester team, Danny Welbeck made his debut for Arsenal. Frank Lampard likewise donned the sky blue jersey for the first time since joining from sister club New York City on loan.
The thumping victory over the champions in the Community Shield just over five weeks ago might have helped the hosts bury the ghost of this fixture from last season, but forcing a 2-2 draw via a late rally at Everton before the international break; called for return to perfection.
Nevertheless, City’s disappointments after the loss at home to Stoke a couple of weeks ago told on the early moments, as both sides preferred an ultra-cautious start. But 15 minutes into it; the ‘Gunners’ began asking few questions of their own.
Welbeck chipped the ball good enough it beat goalkeeper Joe Hart but not the woodwork. Arsenal, afterwards looked the better side on the forward line, with Alexis Sanchez, the ex-Manchester United man and Ramsey weaving together some neat passes, but their decision in the final third left much questions to be asked.
They paid for their shrewd attack on 28 minutes, allowing Manuel Pellegrini’s side some space for counter after Sanchez’s run was halted on the edge of the area. Aguero proved masterclass for the lass Laurient Koscielny to latch on to Jesus Navas’ low cross and then lifted the ball over Wojciech Szczesny into the net.
David Silva should have doubled the lead immediately but his shot from tight angle could not elude Szczesny.
Navas became too edgy in the closing minutes of the first-half but a couple of dead balls awarded for the Spaniard’s eagerness Sanchez fluffed.
Arsene Wenger’s team talk at the break should have centred on urgency, but the start of the second-half offered much of the same- the visitors giving up possession while his guns came up with few options on the ball.
Welbeck forced a save off Hart few minutes after restart and later took too long to meet Sanchez’s cross.
Mathieu Flamini’s presence in front of the back four was of trifling effect, allowing Silva to torment the Londoners’ defence like a speck in front of the pupil.
In spite of that, Wilshere took up the initiative and, out of the blues it clicked. The playmaker bundled his way out of the midfield bundle, exchanged a one-two touch with Ramsey, beat Gael Clichy to dunk over Hart.
The equaliser suddenly revamped the Emirate Stadium party. Mathieu Debuchy’s low shot went wide and Welbeck made a mess in front of Hart.
Sanchez turned it up a notch in the 74th minute with a screamer goal. The Chilean kept his cool to blast a precise side-footed volley beyond Hart into the top corner from Wilshere’s spilled header.
City needed a response to avoid losing first successive games in 145 matches. They poured forward in numbers.
Their appeal for penalty after a bouncing ball climbed up the hard-fighting Wilshere’s shoulder fell on referee Mark Clattenburg’s deaf ears.
But they needed none of such as Demichelis drew level 7 minutes to the dead. The Argentine rose highest to head Aleksandar Kolarov’s corner home. The header so powerful that Szczesny’s outstretched arms couldn’t parry.
Kolarov rattled the upright with a thunderous effort from tight corner. Koscielny, in an attempt to keep a Silva pass off substitute Edin Dzeko then deflected the ball past his goalkeeper back off the post.
Arsenal were bamboozled into their own half as City searched for that killer punch but to no avail, leaving both side to settle for a draw.