Villa picked up their best result of the season after downing Arsenal 1-2 at the Emirates thanks to two early goals from the clinical Darren Bent. The match was exactly what Villa have been missing all season. Flawless finishing and resolute defending. McAllister for manager? Not quite! The caretaker 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. 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. Arsenal were expectedly dominate throughout the second half with the Villa defence making block after block in a heroic effort. The home side had a goal disallowed when substitute Chamakh was adjudged to have pushed Walker. Extremely lucky for Villa again who got the rub of the green all afternoon. Arsenal scored with a minute to go after van Persie prodded home after a scramble in the box but Villa hung on for a fantastic win which sees them mathematically safe. Finally!
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.
Arsenal brought on Chamakh for Squillaci at half time. The defender was poor and the move sparked a complete reshuffle from the home side with Song moving into the defence.
Bent was in after Song air kicked but the striker fired tamely at the keeper with his weaker foot.
Arshavin then found space in the box as Arsenal attacked in numbers. He struck a right foot shot hard at Friedel but straight at the American.
Downing delivered a poor ball in straight at Sczeszny after great link up with Delph.
Friedel made a great stop from Gibbs after Van Persie had set him free in the box. The veteran came out and smothered the left backs effort from close range.
Wilshere then put van Persie through on the left but the in from striker blazed over after a slip from Walker.
Dunne then went into the book after a sliding foul on Chamakh with Arsenal well on top in the second half.
Ramsey juggled the ball in the box after beating Collins in the air. The Villa defender recovered well to block the youngsters volley, all after a van Persie free kick from range had struck the wall.
Villa broke well through Downing and the ball was worked to Young who cut in from the left and forced a good low save from Sczeszny. The ball fell to Downing who had a left foot effort kept out by the young Pole. The ball went up the other end and Walcott found space on the right but Villa blocked again.
Chamakh then had a goal disallowed after nodding home. The Moroccan was penalised for a push on Walker and replays show Villa were very lucky again.
Chamakh then had another chance after a good combination with Gibbs. Friedel saved the strikers low drive well down to his left.
Michael Bradley then came on for a rare appearance, replacing Petrov with 10 minutes remaining.
Bendtner slipped van Persie and Friedel rushed out again to deny the Dutchman.
Van Persie scored after 89 minutes, prodding past Friedel after a scramble in the box to make it squeaky bum time for Villa with 4 minutes of injury time signalled. Heskey came on to replace Fabian Delph.
Full time. Villa were resolute at one end and clinical at the other. The complete opposite to the way they have played in the rest of the season. Mathematically safe. GET IN! Phew.
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 8 – made 3 or 4 comfortable saves but a couple of fantastic stops from close range
Kyle Walker – 8 – superb assist for the first and inspired in the opening 45 both back and forward
Richard Dunne – 7 – put his body on the line but should have been off there’s no doubt
James Collins – 7 – good in the air and blocked well
Luke Young – 8 – battled heroically and was really fired up
Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – good first half, faded second, booked
Fabian Delph – 7 – hampered in defensive role, shaky in first but showed glimpses of real quality
Nigel Reo-Coker – 7 – strong as ever and got about the pitch in a fairly advanced role
Ashley Young – 6 – worked hard and good assist but positionally poor
Stewart Downing – 6 – in and out with a couple of good breaks but understandably subdued
Darren Bent – 8 – barely touched the ball in the second but clinical in the first, sublime opener
Michael Bradley – no time
Emile Heskey – no time
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