MANCHESTER // Robinho turned on a second-half super show to leave Arsenal shell-shocked yet again. The Brazilian claimed his ninth goal of the season, with his superb chip the highlight of an impressive City win. He had another effort ruled offside and then the Gunners substitute Kieron Gibbs cleared his shot off the line.
Robinho limped off to a deserved standing ovation as City recorded a crucial first win in five league games. For Arsenal, it was a fifth defeat of a troubled campaign and, if he didn't already know it, the title looks a distant dream for Arsene Wenger's side. Without William Gallas, the defence contrived to hand the in-form Stephen Ireland the opener and never recovered. To make matters worse, Daniel Sturridge won, and slotted home, a penalty in added time.
With all the pre-match attention surrounding the captain William Gallas, it was no surprise to see his name absent from the line up, dropped after his midweek outburst against his own teammates. It was a major decision by the Arsenal manager, but also a decisive message, perhaps, that no player is bigger than the team. Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia took the captain's armband and was intent on ensuring the his side were focused on the match and not the off-field problems that appear to be ripping the club apart.
Joe Hart - amazingly back in the side after an ankle injury looked to have ruled him out for a month - was not tested in the City goal until the 34th minute. He spilled Samir Nasri's 25-yard free kick and Alex Song shot woefully wide after Nicklas Bendtner pulled the ball back to him inside the penalty area. City struggled to find their own creative spark, but conjured the first chance in the 27th minute. Vincent Kompany broke well with a marauding run and the ball found its way to Darius Vassell on the right. He swept in a low cross which the sliding Benjani steered wide.
On half-time, Arsenal gifted Ireland his goal. Gael Clichy was impeded by his teammate, Mikael Silvestre, as he unconvincingly tried to clear and the ball dropped invitingly for the alert Ireland to coolly lob over Almunia. Arsenal came out for the second half all guns blazing and had three chances in the first six minutes with Abou Diaby slicing wide, Bendtner missing a header when well placed and then Robin van Persie curling a free-kick into the side netting.
City - who had won just once in 12 previous home meetings with Arsenal - made them pay for those misses in style on 56 minutes. Shaun Wright-Phillips robbed Van Persie just inside the visitors' half and then slid an inch-perfect pass for Robinho, who effortlessly chipped the advancing Almunia. Pure brilliance from a man who had looked to have been well shackled. Robinho almost bagged his second with a cheeky backheel into the net after Almunia had fumbled a shot from Ireland. A flag for offside rescued the Gunners, but it is difficult to see what will do the same for the rest of their season.
Van Persie might feel aggrieved by the referee's decision when he kicked the ball as Joe Hart was about to clear from his hands and scored, but it mattered little as Sturridge's penalty tied the game up in injury time. firstname.lastname@example.org