London: Martin Demichelis' late header saved Manchester City from a second successive defeat as the Premier League champions rescued a thrilling 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Saturday.
Man City's Martin Demichelis celebrates scoring against Arsenal in London on Saturday. Pic/AFP
City, who had lost at home to Stoke immediately before the international break, appeared set to leave the Emirates Stadium empty-handed when Arsenal staged a second half comeback with two excellent goals from Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez overturning Sergio Aguero's first half opener.
But Argentine defender Demichelis was allowed a free header from an 84th minute corner to ensure both teams go into their opening Champions League group games next week having avoided defeat. City finished the stronger with Samir Nasri seeing a late effort ruled out for offside, but both managers could make a case that their side was hard done by.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will feel his side have made progress after suffering a succession of painful defeats against their top four rivals last season, but the Gunners have won only one of their first four league matches.
Wenger handed a debut to Danny Welbeck whose Â£16 million ($26 million) transfer from Manchester United had lifted the mood among Arsenal supporters critical of Wenger's failure to bring in a striker during the transfer window.
Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, handed a first Manchester City start to Frank Lampard who joined the club on loan after leaving Chelsea as a free agent, with the former England midfielder replacing Yaya Toure who was rested following international duty with the Ivory Coast.
Of the two new faces, it was Welbeck who made the bigger impression early on with the forward clearly brimming with confidence following his two-goal display for England in Switzerland in midweek.
With Arsenal starting the game on the front foot, it looked as though Welbeck would make the perfect start when he latched onto a loose ball from City's David Silva only for his chipped finish to rebound away off the inside of the post with Joe Hart beaten.
The effort summed up Arsenal's swagger during the opening 25 minutes with Sanchez, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey combining well behind Welbeck. By contrast, City were getting overrun in midfield and Lampard was largely anonymous before receiving the game's first yellow card for a foul on Ramsey.
Jesus Navas's pace down the right hand flank was the visitors' most productive outlet and the winger almost drew an own-goal from Per Mertesacker when the Arsenal defender spooned a low cross over his own cross bar.
That should have been a warning for Arsenal but it went unheeded with left-back Nacho Monreal again exposed to Navas's pace in the build-up to the 28th minute opening goal.
Navas again broke on the right from halfway before sending a low cross towards Aguero and, having taken advantage of Mathieu Flamini's lapse in concentration, the Argentina striker pulled into space before finishing from close range. It was a familiar story for Arsenal who had enjoyed the majority of possession only to be exposed by the opposition's more clinical finishing.
The momentum had shifted City's way with Arsenal once again looking incapable of matching their main rivals. Wenger, though, insists his side are more resilient this season and the way they responded after the break supported the manager's view. Wilshere sparked his side into life, winning the ball in midfield before exchanging passes with Ramsey, moving past Gael Clichy and clipping a right foot finish over Joe Hart for the 63rd minute leveller.
City's response was muted and Arsenal forced themselves ahead 11 minutes later when Sanchez latched onto Wilshere's looping header to direct a brilliant volley past Hart. City appeared to be heading for a second successive defeat, but Arsenal showed they have not shed the tendency to self-destruct when they left Demichelis unmarked at an Aleksandar Kolarov corner, allowing the centre-back to head the leveller six minutes from time.