Match Report: Aston Villa 2-2 Arsenal
A pivotal game in Arsenal’s season was taking place in a chilly Villa Park earlier this evening.
And what a game it was. Mikael Silvestre and Emmanuel both returned to the starting XI after a short spell out of the line-up.
Aston Villa boasted the likes of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonhlahor, both of whom caused plenty of trouble for the Gunners’ defence a month ago in the 2-0 win at the Emirates.
Aston Villa Starting XI
Reo-Coker – Davies – Knight – L Young
Milner – Sidwell – Petrov – Barry – A Young
Arsenal Starting XI
Sagna – Toure – Gallas – Silvestre
Eboue – Denilson – Song – Nasri
The game started at a high tempo, with Arsenal knowing that a win would be enough to take The Gunners above Aston Villa and up to 4th in the Premiership table, but Villa hoping to go six points clear of their Premier League rivals.
Steve Sidwell almost opened the scoring for Aston Villa in the 6th minute from a corner, beating Alex Song to a header, but his shot ricocheted off both the crossbar and the post and away to safety.
Villa were causing problems for Arsene Wenger’s side early in the match, forcing a number of corners from the Arsenal defenders, who looked uncomfortable under pressure.
Zat Knight denied Arsenal forward Robin van Persie a clear shot on goal in the 15th minute after the Dutch striker found space for the first time in the match, but it was the home side that were in the ascendancy and they continued to harry the visitors.
Another great chance for Villa was thwarted in the 20th minute, with Manuel Almunia diving to his right well to parry away Gabriel Agbonlahor’s fierce shot from the corner of the penalty area, with William Gallas diving to block Steve Sidwell’s follow-up shot which was heading for goal.
Aston Villa had chance after chance to score the opener, but Arsenal keeper Almunia made another good save to stop Ashley Young’s shot rebounding off the post and into goal, and minutes later Curtis Davies found space in the penalty-area to turn and shoot, but yet again Villa were denied by the woodwork.
Despite all the pressure from the home-side, Arsenal took the lead in the 40th minute, with only their second real chance of the match.
Denilson was the goalscorer, latching on to the ball after some loose defending, charging into the Villa area and smashing the ball through Brad Friedel’s legs from the edge of the six-yard box to give Arsenal the lead, completely against the run-of-play.
Goal: Denilson (40) – Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal
The game went into half-time 1-0 to Arsenal, while Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill will be rueing the many missed chances in the first-half.
Arsenal started the second-half with far more intent and doubled their lead within minutes of the restart, with Abou Diaby shooting into the top-corner of Friedel’s net to make it 2-0 – a stunning goal from a player who has been under pressure by many sections of the fans.
Goal: Abou Diaby (49) – Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal
The home-side, after recovering from the two goals either side of half-time, started to come back into the match and they were soon back in contention.
Aston Villa were awarded a penalty just after the hour-mark after William Gallas tripped Gabriel Agbonlahor on the edge of the penalty-area, much to the chagrin of Arsene Wenger, who had a verbal with Villa boss O’Neill over the challenge.
The spot-kick was converted by the re-instated Villa captain Gareth Barry, to halve Arsenal’s lead.
Goal: Gareth Barry (65 pen) – Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
Aston Villa were looking for the equaliser so, to try and secure the win, Arsene Wenger replaced Samir Nasri with Gael Clichy in the 82nd minute as Arsenal tried to sure-up their defence for the closing minutes of the match.
But Villa were defiant to the end, and blew away Arsenal’s advantage in injury-time.
The equaliser came in the second minute of injury-time, from defender Zat Knight, who collected the loose ball in the penalty-area to score just his second goal for Villa and his first for 15 months to give Villa a valuable draw.
Goal: Zat Knight (90+1) – Aston Villa 2-2 Arsenal
What everyone can be sure of is that Arsene Wenger needs to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window. Despite today’s team being a ‘second string’ of sort, there still seems to be negativity in the camp. Come on Arsene, bring out your chequebook.