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Manchester City boosted their hopes of regaining the Barclays Premier League title and dealt a blow to Arsenal's hopes with a 6-3 win in Saturday's early kick-off.
The 2011-12 champions went into the game six points adrift of Arsene Wenger's league leaders, but moved within striking distance by claiming the spoils in an enthralling encounter. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring for City, volleying home from a corner, only for the returning Theo Walcott to level for Arsenal midway through the first half. Alvaro Negredo turned in Pablo Zabaleta's cross to put the hosts back in front and City looked to have made the game safe when Fernandinho scored his first goal for the club early in the second half.
Walcott curled home a delightful second as Arsenal rallied, yet David Silva converted Jesus Navas's cross to make it 4-2 and Fernandinho struck again in the 88th minute. An added-time header from Per Mertesacker provided little consolation for the visitors, particularly as there was still time for Yaya Toure to add City's sixth from the penalty spot.
Walcott made his first start since September for Arsenal, while City manager Manuel Pellegrini again preferred Costel Pantilimon to Joe Hart in goal.
The hosts started the stronger and were rewarded after 13 minutes when Aguero met Martin Demichelis’s near-post flick-on from a corner with an acrobatic volley that flew past Wojciech Szczesny.
City’s advantage was almost doubled seven minutes later when Negredo shot wide from Vincent Kompany's through-ball, but Arsenal equalised after 31 minutes when Walcott finished a flowing move with a shot from the edge of the area that left Pantilimon flat-footed.
Negredo missed a gilt-edged chance soon afterwards, but the Spain striker atoned for that with a goal from point-blank range in the 39th minute following good work from Toure and Zabaleta. To make matters worse for Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny sustained an injury as Negredo found the net and the defender was forced off to be replaced by Thomas Vermaelen.
Aguero was also withdrawn through injury after the break, but City grabbed a third when Fernandinho capitalised on sloppy Arsenal defending with a curled finish. Wenger’s men produced a determined response, Olivier Giroud heading wide before a penalty appeal for handball against Zabaleta went unanswered.
Walcott’s exquisite second provided genuine hope for Arsenal, but City were not to be denied and soon restored their two-goal advantage through Silva.
Wilshere forced Pantilimon into a fine save with a shot from distance, but the England midfielder conceded possession to allow Fernandinho to score his second.
That goal came with two minutes remaining, yet there was still time for Mertesacker to pull one back and Toure to finish from 12 yards after James Milner had been brought down by Szczesny.
The victory takes City to within three points of their opponents, who remain top of the Barclays Premier League and have a home match against Chelsea to look forward to next weekend.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "It's very important to be an entertaining team but I would prefer we won 6-0 rather than 6-3. Every manager can think the way they want to think, maybe some managers prefer to score one and sit back but we will continue to keep trying to score goals because that’s how we want to win.
"It’s possible to [win in attacking fashion without conceding] but the whole team must know how to defend. I will watch the game again tomorrow but I don’t remember Arsenal having that many chances to score more than three. Attacking, it was a very good performance, it's not easy to score six against Arsenal – the best defence in the Premier League but we had four more good, clear chances to score goals, so in that sense I’m very happy but we must keep improving."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It hurts to lose like that, but we made too many mistakes in the middle of the park. Overall they deserved the win; we have to go home and recover, we made too many technical mistakes. There is nothing worse in football than being tired and running after the score. We want to win. We are very sad because we lost a big game. We know a big season depends on winning big games."
"We had the best defence in the league but we conceded many goals today. Honestly, we could have scored at least six today as well. It was a very open game, we made too mistakes though. Our strength until today was our defensive strength but that went today."
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|18 Jan 2014||v Cardiff (H)|