Man City's chance to win a Europa League spot to a turn for the wose as they lost 2-0 to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. In conjunction with West Ham 2 - 0 defeat of Sunderland, the Citizens are now six points behind the Hammers with only seven matches remaining. Possibly more concerning than the loss is that both Vincent Kompany and Wayne Bridge left the match early and could miss Thursday's UEFA Cup quarter-final match against Bundesliga side Hamburger SV.
The story of the match was not Man City's continued insomnia healing play on the road or even Craig Bellamy's shocking recovery from injury that kept him out of Wales loss to Germany but the return of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas who had been out for three months. Arsenal took the lead only eight minutes in from a set piece. Following a free-kick being awarded for Robinho's foul on French international Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas' free-kick was headed-in by Emmanuel Adebayor near the spot. Arsenal was clearly the aggressor after the goal but should have lost the lead just before the half hour as Gelson Fernandes was gifted a rare clear shot on goal and clanged in off the outside of the post. Down by one, City couldn't expose any Arsenal weaknesses but for the most part were doing a fine job defending. However that all changed after the restart as Arsenal's confidence billowed. The margin was doubled less than five minutes in as the Spanish international coyly sent over Richard Dunne to Emmanuel Adebayor for a stylish finish. Handcuffed due to the injuries Vincent Kompany and Wayne Bridge, Mark Hughes only had one substitution available to which he called upon Daniel Sturridge for Robinho with fourteen minutes. The brilliant young Academy product showed well in his return from injury but could not provide the needed mark and the match concluded with a 2-0 defeat.
Following the match, Mark Hughes expressed his disappointment:
"Those players coming back just added to the quality Arsenal already had, and they both made an impact as well. It was disappointing - losing a goal so early and so poorly from our point of view was always going to make it difficult for us.
"We lost key personnel very early and had to rejig things. We just lacked a bit of physical presence to dictate to the opposition. They are a big athletic side who are able to get around the pitch. As the game wore on, we found it more and more difficult in that respect."
"If that had gone in we would possibly have made a better fist of it. But I just sensed that we lacked a little bit of presence on the field to enable us to ask a good Arsenal side enough questions from 1-0 down."