Football: Manchester City crush Arsenal in nine-goal extravaganza

Manchester City's Fernandinho (second, right) kicks to score his second goal against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, northern England, on Dec 14, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Manchester City's Fernandinho (second, right) kicks to score his second goal against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, northern England, on Dec 14, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Manchester City closed on top spot in the Premier League table on Saturday by overpowering leaders Arsenal 6-3 in a remarkable encounter at the Etihad Stadium.

Goals from Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, David Silva, Yaya Toure and two from Fernandinho lifted City to within three points of the summit, with Theo Walcott replying twice for the Gunners, along with Per Mertesacker.

The latest goal-fest means that City have now scored 31 times in their last six league and cup matches at home - a staggering average better than five per game.

Aguero's impressive opening goal, after 14 minutes, continued his electrifying form and marked his eighth strike in the last seven games at the Etihad.

Former Arsenal man Samir Nasri sent over a right-wing corner that was flicked across goal by centre-back Martin Demichelis, allowing Aguero to slip his marker Laurent Koscielny and conjure up a superb volley, leaning back to lash the ball home from the corner of the six-yard box.

It was Aguero's 19th goal of the season - more than he scored in the whole of the last campaign - and when Vincent Kompany's superb pass played in Negredo moments later, City should have doubled their lead.

Negredo shot into the side-netting, however, and the miss looked like it might prove costly when Arsenal equalised against the run of play after 31 minutes.

Toure gifted the ball to Aaron Ramsey in midfield and the influential playmaker passed wide to Mesut Ozil, who, in turn, picked out Walcott, starting for the first time since September.

Walcott did not connect cleanly, but his first-time shot from 15 yards left City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon glued to the spot.

Negredo wasted another glorious opening by side-footing wide, but he did not need a third invitation to open his account in the 39th minute.

Toure made up for his earlier error by spraying the ball wide to Pablo Zabaleta, whose low cross was converted by Negredo.

Koscielny was injured in the process and stretchered off the field as the afternoon took a worrying turn for visiting manager Arsene Wenger.

City went 3-1 up five minutes into the second half after Ozil gave the ball away deep in his own half to Fernandinho, who was allowed the time and space to curl a fantastic 20-yard shot past Szczesny.

Arsenal looked for a way back, but Giroud volleyed wide at the far post and then headed off target from Bacary Sagna's cross.

The leaders also had a penalty claim turned down after Zabaleta appeared to handle Jack Wilshere's pass before Walcott cut the deficit to a single goal, taking a Ramsey pass and curling a neat shot into the top-right corner.

Hope of a second equaliser soon faded, however, with City regaining their two-goal cushion within three minutes and in the most straightforward fashion.

Jesus Navas, a substitute early in the second half for the injured Aguero, found himself with the ball just outside the Arsenal penalty area and delivered a perfect centre for Silva to convert from six yards.

Wilshere's excellent shot was tipped over, spectacularly, by Pantilimon, while, at the other end, Navas hit the side-netting after rounding Szczesny, Toure shot just off target and Fernandinho had an effort blocked.

Fernandinho eventually struck again two minutes from time, set up by Nasri, with the Brazilian allowed two attempts at a shot by a floundering Arsenal defence before scoring from eight yards.

Even then, there was time for a goal for each side in injury time.

First, Mertesacker powered in a close-range header from Sagna's cross, before Szczesny tripped James Milner in the Arsenal area and Toure converted a convincing penalty kick.