Gary McAllister handed a chance to just one of the fringe players after speculation mounted that a much changed side would be given a chance at Arsenal. Fabian Delph came into the side to replace Emile ‘Mental’ Heskey, in a centre midfield trio propped up by Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker. Arsenal welcomed back key defender Thomas Vermaelen to replace Laurent Koscielny but full-back Gael Clichy, expected to return, missed out to Kieran Gibbs. Villa took the lead after 10 minutes after a fantastic long ball from Walker who was inspired in the opening 45. The England striker’s chest and volley finish was sublime and the visitors deserved their lead after a great start. The game got even better for Villa as Arsenal struggled to get a foothold into the game. A great through ball from Young slipped Bent through again and the forward put it through the advancing Sczeszny’s legs. Arsenal perked up after going two down and should have had a penalty after Dunne fouled Ramsey in the box from behind. Villa were lucky to have 11 men still on the pitch and the looping ball over the top became a theme. Van Persie hit the post after outfoxing Collins and Villa were relieved to here the half time whistle, going in 0-2 to the good.
A good start from Villa saw them dominate the midfield in the opening exchanges. Arsenal looked a little weak in the tackle centrally but no chances for either side came in the first 5 minutes.
Bent broke through the middle after an interception from Delph and looked to be in but hesitated and allowed the defenders to get back at him before the attack fizzled out.
Bent scored after 11 minutes after a Villa corner is cleared to Walker near the half way line. The full back put a great ball into the box and Bent’s chest and volley was gloriously taken to give the away side a thoroughly deserved lead.
Bent scored his and Villa’s second, slipping the ball through Sczeszny’s legs after a delicious through ball from Young. A dream start for the visitors with just 15 minutes on the clock.
Villa kept attacking and Arsenal couldn’t cope early on with the away side winning possession. Van Persie netted but he was about 30 yards offside after a weak kick out from Friedel. The keeper got lucky.
Showboat stuff from Ashley Young who flicked to Downing and the travelling fans will be wondering where this side of the first 20 minutes have been all season?
Reo-Coker picked up a yellow after a poor foul on Jack Wilshere. Right decision.
Sagna drove a volley wide via a deflection after a corner and the resulting set piece was well cleared by Villa.
Villa then got extremely luck after Ramsey was in following a great ball over the defence. Dunne slid in from behind and didn’t get the ball. Very lucky not to give away a penalty and a certain red card for the defender. The centre back then made another last ditch tackle on van Persie who was put through but this time got the ball. Good tackle.
James Collins then made a superb challenge after Reo-Coker had failed to shepherd the ball out and away from Song. Petrov is booked now for a late challenge, again on Wilshere.
Van Persie hit the post after another great ball over the top as Arsenal began to dominate. The Dutchman evaded the challenge of Collins before hitting a low drive against the woodwork.
The hosts kept the pressure on with a corner and Vermaelen headed just over. Arsenal then won their 7th corner after just 38 minutes but Squillaci headed way wide.
Van Persie was penalised unfairly after spinning Dunne and Ramsey was in. Very harsh on the Arsenal captain and very fortunate for Villa approaching half time as the whistle was blown just in time for the away side.
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