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Manchester City 1-2 Arsenal


Arsenal can savour a three-point cushion at the top of the Premiership after a Sunday which almost went perfectly for Arsene Wenger.

Almost because, after Manchester United's defeat at Southampton, Arsenal trailed for 40 minutes due to Lauren's inexplicable own goal.

A fractious Wenger prowled the touchline anxiously before Sylvain Wiltord and Freddie Ljungberg earned the three points and helped counter the theory that Arsenal struggle when behind.

Arsenal enjoyed their trips to Maine Road, as 4-0 scorelines after half an hour of their last two trips show. They found City's new ground tougher but still claimed the disctinction of being the the first Premiership victors at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Ultimately, Wenger may have enjoyed it more because a win achieved without Arsenal finding their irrestible best or without a significant contribution from Thierry Henry, whose scoring run ended, or the suspended Sol Campbell. For all of the excellent Nicolas Anelka's efforts, Arsenal's major problems at the back were self-inflicted.

Lauren's comical clinical finish in his own goal handed City the lead. The bemused Jens Lehmann was an innocent bystander as the Cameroon international followed his poor first touch with an awful second one, slotting the ball past the German while under pressure from Sinclair.

Though Trevor Sinclair's pursuit culminated in a hand on Lauren's back, Arsenal calls for a free kick were optimistic and ignored by Graham Poll.

And, farcically, Arsenal almost dropped two points at the last with an even odder own goal, Lauren thrashing his clearance into the unfortunate Martin Keown, on to the bar and back on to the unwitting Lehmann's back before an offside flag was spotted.

The German was happier dealing with attempts from his opponents. Anelka, enjoying the free rein the lone striker was given, stung his palms in the first half and brought a better save after the interval from a fierce drive.

The best chance fell to Antoine Sibierski, but his tame shot was straight at Lehmann; Lauren had finished rather better. Robbie Fowler, the Frenchman's belated replacement, almost did, but headed over in injury time.

But City remain defensively susceptible. First Shaun Wright-Phillips lost Ashley Cole and then, from the left back's cross, David Sommeil gave Wiltord too much room to finish.

And Lehmann's encouraging display was predictably overshadowed by the performance of his predecessor in the City goal. If Anelka excelled against his former club, Seaman's contribution was more debateable.

His culpability in the winner was less obvious than against Blackburn on Monday, but his 39-year-old legs were slow off the line as came out to meet Robert Pires, chasing a Wiltord pass. As the ball broke free, Seaman was slower to react than Ljungberg and the Swede's predatory instincts earned Arsenal a fourth successive win.

Seaman had enjoyed the first half more, while his former team-mates struggled and his only saves came from Ljungberg's rising drive and Wiltord's tame shot. So far, so good for Seaman, if not for his old team-mates.

Arsenal's sloppiness - with Pires' set pieces invariably finding a City head - even affected Thierry Henry. The usually peerless Frenchman's chest control let him down with the goal gaping after Ljungberg's cross beat the City defence.

But with Patrick Vieira stepping up his performance, Arsenal took control after the interval and scored almost immediately, aided by City's defensive susceptibilities. Shaun Wright-Phillips was beaten to the ball by Ashley Cole and his low cross was touched in by Wiltord, granted too much room by David Sommeil.

After Ljungberg's winner, two further chances fell Henry's way. He beat Seaman both times but Joey Barton got back to clear as he tried to walk one in and, when offside, was denied by the post. But when Henry did not score, Arsenal still won.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Martin Keown (Arsenal) - Made his first start of the season and combined well with Kolo Toure in the centre of defence.

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