| Arsenal’s Sylvain Wiltord (right) and Manchester City’s Sylvain Disten fight for the ball during their English Premier League match at Highbury on Tuesday. Arsenal won 2-1. (Reuters)
London: Champions Arsenal replaced neighbours Tottenham Hotspur on top of the English Premier League after in-form Sylvain Wiltord inspired them to a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Highbury on Tuesday.
Wiltord’s strike, his fifth in five league games, and a Thierry Henry goal later in the first half sealed a win that took Arsenal to 11 points from five games, one clear of Spurs.
Promoted City briefly levelled through former Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka but finished with 10 men after Ali Benarbia was sent off five minutes from the end.
Middlesbrough leapt to fourth place on eight points after demolishing neighbours Sunderland 3-0 at the Riverside in Tuesday’s other Premier League match, with Slovakian Szilard Nemeth scoring twice.
Both games were preceded by a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States last year.
Arsenal were made to sweat for their win, which helped them equal a club record of 26 league games unbeaten.
“We have a great level of consistency and a high level of motivation and ambition in the side,” manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports television.
“We were not 100 percent comfortable but that’s down to the fact they always pushed forward and have good quality offensive players.”
Despite having lost their last two games against Arsenal 4-0 and 5-0, City started the brighter and almost took an early lead when Benarbia struck the bar after five minutes.
Arsenal looked lacklustre but went ahead in the 26th minute when Dennis Bergkamp played in Wiltord and the Frenchman calmly beat City goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.
It was Wiltord’s fifth League goal of the season, adding to his superb winner for France against Cyprus on Saturday.
Deservedly, City equalised almost immediately, when Benarbia found Anelka unmarked and the striker, not known for his aerial prowess, headed low past goalkeeper David Seaman.
Arsenal hit back, though, and Henry drew a fine save from Schmeichel before putting Arsenal back in front three minutes before the break with a low finish after a good link-up between Wiltord and wing-back Ashley Cole.
The second half was more cagey with Anelka causing a few nervous moments against his old team but after Benarbia earned a second yellow for dissent, Wenger’s side saw out time.
“I’ve no complaints but I think we can play better,” said City boss Kevin Keegan. “We’re new here, this was a big test for us and we didn’t come through.”
Middlesbrough, who beat Sunderland home and away last season, raced into a 2-0 lead before halftime at the Riverside.
Nemeth tapped in a 17th-minute opener after Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen spilled a Massimo Maccarone shot and the Italian striker’s fine header from a Franck Queudrue free kick made it 2-0 after 37 minutes.
Maccarone fed Nemeth who scored his second to make it 3-0 midway through the second period, completing a miserable night for Peter Reid’s Sunderland.