Aston Villa held resolute despite a lot of pressure in the second half to secure all three points of Arsenal.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa hosted Arsenal at Villa Park this afternoon, hoping to make history and do the double over the Gunners for the first time in 38 years.
And their attempt started strongly – with Bertrand Traore finding Ollie Watkins in a central position after just 70 seconds. The forward took a sliced shot at the ball, which trickled past Mat Ryan in the Arsenal net.
The next fifteen or so minutes lulled, with Aston Villa inviting more pressure than usual due to their early goal – but Arsenal were struggling to break Dean Smith’s side down.
Arsenal’s first real chance of the game came from a Granit Xhaka free kick from range, which was headed towards the top left corner of Martinez’ goal. The keeper was alert to it and palmed it over for a corner.
Bertrand Traore almost made it two shortly after, with a sharp touch and turn he found himself one-on-one with Mat Ryan. He attempted a lob but the ‘keeper was alert to the attempt and saved it.
Ezri Konsa was yellow carded in the 32nd minute as he and Saka wrapped legs as the Arsenal youngster attempted to break behind Villa’s high line. Marvelous Nakamba was booked for a challenge on the same player two minutes later.
Arsenal continued pressure during the half, but never looked like truly testing Aston Villa or Emiliano Martinez, and Aston Villa were the side that went in at the break in control.
Aston Villa had a few chances early in the second half, with Ross Barkley starting the second half very well – firing just wide at the end of a corner routine and playing a great role in a headed chance for Ollie Watkins shortly after.
Thomas Partey was booked for a harsh challenge on Marvelous Nakamba in the 52nd minute.
John McGinn had an opportunity from range in the 55th minute, but Mat Ryan was equal to it and got down low to save it.
Lacezette was replaced by Aubameyang with thirty minutes remaining of normal time for Arsenal.
Four minutes later, and Arsenal replaced Cedric Soares with Martin Odegaard, whilst Bertrand Traore made way for Trezeguet for Aston Villa.
Arsenal looked on top for a long period of this half, and were challenging towards Villa’s goal more often than Villa were getting into Arsenal’s final third.
With fifteen remaining, Thomas Partey was replaced by Willian as Arsenal hunted for an equaliser. Shortly after, Ross Barkley was replaced by Jacob Ramsey for Aston Villa.
Jack Grealish forced Ryan into a strong save with his left foot in the 78th minute as Ollie Watkins found the Villa captain in space after a mix-up in the Arsenal backline.
Ollie Watkins nearly grabbed his brace in the 82nd, but the forward was off balance when taking his strike and the shot trickled agonisingly past the post.
Granit Xhaka was booked in the third minute of added time for downing Jack Grealish who was underway on a mazy counter-attacking run.
Despite prolonged pressure from Arsenal in the second half, Aston Villa defended resolutely to secure all three points.