Aston Villa are one step closer to Premier League survival after dispatching Arsenal this evening.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa laid host to Arsenal this evening in the final Premier League game at Villa Park of this season. Villa entered the game buoyed by the drubbing of Watford at the hands of Manchester City.
It was Aston Villa who had the opening chance of the game as the sun started to break over Villa Park and as the faint hum of a plane echoed about the stadium. McGinn headed over at the end of a Elmohamady cross.
The banner, for those interested, read: “Back Arteta, Kroenke Out”.
Ahmed Elmohamady looked to have picked up a knock to his hamstring just before the ten minute mark and it seemed as if Frederic Guilbert was primed to come onto the pitch – but the Egyptian soldiered on.
In the opening 20, Arsenal were enjoying much of the possession but were not getting into overly dangerous areas.
During the first half drinks break, Elmohamady departed the pitch and was replaced by Frederic Guilbert.
The 26th minute saw Aston Villa take the lead via Trezeguet as the ball fell to him unmarked in the box following a corner, with the Egyptian striking the ball cleanly with the outside of his boot into the bottom right of the net.
Lucas Torreira was booked in the 35th minute for a late challenge on Conor Hourihane.
Ahead of half-time, Aston Villa were enjoying a healthy amount of possession and attempts – with corners in abundance around the 40th minute mark. None came to fruition, however Trezeguet did manage a header on target from a re-cycled ball into the box from Jack Grealish.
Jack Grealish attempted a wonder strike from 30-yards away on the brink of added time after running from the half way line, but his shot had just a little too much on it and flew over the bar. There were three minutes added on.
Frederic Guilbert produced an outstanding slide tackle to dispossess Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the dying embers of the half before Aston Villa went in leading at the break.
Arsenal made a change during half-time, with Torreira replaced by Granit Xhaka.
Aston Villa enjoyed the best of the early chances in the first five minutes of the half, with a number of corners coming thanks to the hard work of Mbwana Samatta and Jack Grealish.
Bukayo Saka had an opportunity for Arsenal in the 50th minute, but the youngster’s shot ballooned far over the bar.
Ezri Konsa made an important block in the 55th as Lacazette found himself with the opportunity to shoot – but the young centre-back got down low and protected his goal well.
Just ahead of the hour mark, Arsenal made two changes, bringing on Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney – who replaced David Luiz and Bukayo Saka.
Alexandre Lacazette was booked in the 60th for a nibble at Jack Grealish’s ankles.
The mid-way drinks break came at the right time for Aston Villa as Arsenal began to ramp up the pressure. Douglas Luiz was booked shortly after the game resumed for persistent fouling.
The 72nd minute saw Conor Hourihane and Mbwana Samatta replaced by Marvelous Nakamba and Keinan Davis for Aston Villa. Just before this, Frederic Guilbert had made another sublime track-back to deny the on-rushing Kieran Tierney from playing a cross into the box.
Keinan Davis could have put the game beyond Arsenal in the 75th minute as he found himself one-on-one with ‘keeper Martinez, but the striker scooped his shot wide.
Lady luck shined on Aston Villa in the 76th minute as Nketiah very nearly equalised for Arsenal. The forward’s header bounced off the post and then gracefully into the grateful arms of Pepe Reina.
With 12 minutes remaining, Joe Willock came onto the pitch, replacing Cedric.
In the 85th, assistant ref Sian Massey called a foul on a Matt Targett challenge in a dangerous area – but the resulting free-kick was headed over the bar by Tyrone Mings as Pepe Reina found himself in no-mans land.
There were four minutes of added time. With two minutes of those remaining, Henri Lansbury replaced John McGinn.
Aston Villa are one game away from securing their Premier League future, and are in the prime position to do so. They are out of the bottom three.