LONDON (AP) Arsenal prevented Manchester City from going top while keeping up its own pursuit of the title with a spirited fightback to draw 1-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.
Mathieu Flamini’s second-half equalizer for Arsenal ensured Chelsea remains at the summit despite a shock 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace before the clash of the title challengers at the Emirates Stadium.
With Arsenal still reeling from a demoralizing 6-0 loss at Chelsea and a late collapse to draw with Swansea in midweek, another setback beckoned when David Silva completed a counter-attack to put third-place City in front in the 18th minute.
But conceding early made Arsenal more assertive and Flamini turned Lukas Podolski’s cross into the net to level eight minutes into the second half.
”We were a bit nervy at the start, insecure in our attitude by our last two results but when we were 1-0 down you could see the team was ready for a fight,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
”We have gone through a nightmare last week and of course you could see with the 2-2 against Swansea the team was on the floor and hugely disappointed, but despite that we responded very well today.”
Nerves, though, seem to inflict this Arsenal squad too regularly, leaving the squad fourth but now five points behind Chelsea.
”Maybe it is very difficult to explain mental insecurity,” Wenger said.
But it could determine which team emerges victorious in May. Although City is two points behind Chelsea in third behind Liverpool, it has two games in hand on the London club.
”It’s a good point because we played two games away this week against Manchester United and against Arsenal and to get four points from six against two big teams is not bad,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said.
This was a result that will have restored morale at Arsenal just when it seemed the team’s title prospects were evaporating after the defense was breached early on the break by City’s impressive attacking unit.
Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski conceded possession all too easily in the City half, allowing Yaya Toure to set Silva off on a rampaging run from the halfway line.
The Spain midfielder bamboozled Arsenal’s defense as he cut in from the right and released Edin Dzeko. Although Dzeko hit the post, Silva was well place to clip the rebound beyond Wojciech Szczesny from close range.
But there would be no capitulation by Arsenal this weekend. If anything, Arsenal displayed more fighting spirit and control in midfield while searching for the equalizer.
It didn’t take Arsenal long after the break to end City’s five-game run without conceding in the league.
Santi Cazorla signaled Arsenal’s intent by testing Joe Hart before Flamini knocked the ball past the City goalkeeper from close range.
”We saw in the first half there was the opportunity to create some goals so we came out in the second half and tried our best,” Flamini said. ”We had the chance to score a goal and we tried to score another for the victory, but we missed the opportunity.”
Hart’s agility prevented Arsenal from claiming all three points, using his legs to block Podolski, while Cazorla saw a free kick headed wide by Olivier Giroud to leave Arsenal with just two points from three games.
But, even for a side without a league title in a decade, it’s far too soon to write off Arsenal when the top four all remain in contention for the trophy.