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BBC Five Live's Ron Jones
reports from Highbury
 real 14k

Arsenal striker Thierry Henry:
"We did not deserve to win"
 real 56k

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
"First half Villa were sharper"
 real 56k

Villa manager John Gregory:
"James got beat by a quality player"
 real 56k

Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 16:24 GMT
Henry shoots down Villa
Silvinho and Lee Dixon chase down Julian Joachim
Silvinho and Lee Dixon chase down Julian Joachim
Arsenal 1-0 Aston Villa

In a game which never quite came alight, Thierry Henry's second-half strike was enough to bring Arsenal's seventh straight win and keep them hot on the heels of Man United.

The signs were promising for the Gunners from the start as they were able to welcome back Robert Pires from injury, Patrick Vieira from suspension and Lauren from Olympic duty.

Villa gave Julian Joachim his first start of the season while Gilles de Bilde newly signed from Sheffield Wednesday was given a place on the bench.

Arsenal started brightly with Pires escaping down the left and picking out Dennis Bergkamp in the box who forced David James into a smart save low to his right.

Grimandi challenges Dublin for an aerial ball
Grimandi challenges Dublin for an aerial ball
But Villa forced their way back into the game and three times threatened from set pieces.

First a corner came out to Lee Hendrie and the youngster picked out Gareth Southgate in front of goal, but the England defender was foiled by David Seaman at point blank range.

Then they twice went close from free-kicks when Dion Dublin and then Southgate again beat the Arsenal defence.

Gareth Barry followed Southgate's example and stole forward from the Villa defence and blasted a good effort across Seaman's goal from the edge of the area.

Few chances

In the first half we had problems - we were outpaced and outplayed by Villa who were always first to the ball. They worked very hard and passed the ball well. In the second half we were more agressive and put Villa under pressure and then we started to create chances.
  Arsene Wenger
But it was a half of few chances with Arsenal's only other effort of note coming three minutes before the break when Pires won a free-kick directly in front of goal 20 yards out, but Henry's shot deflected away for a corner.

Villa almost caught Arsenal napping right at the start of the second half when Alan Wright reached a cross to the far post and Gilles Grimandi had to head the ball off the line.

Henry scored his sixth league goal of the season
Henry scored his sixth league goal of the season
Arsenal were still finding it hard to carve out openings but just after the hour they finally broke the deadlock.

Pires fed Henry running through the middle, and although Alpay seemed to have him covered, Henry's shot went through the defender's legs and left David James flat-footed.

Things got worse for Villa five minutes later when Lee Hendrie was sent off for a second bookable offence.

He had only just been booked for dissent when he brought Pires down from behind as he raced towards goal.

I felt we should have been ahead at half-time but we failed to score and we came in 0-0. When we lost Lee Hendrie we seemed to up it even more but the turning point was Ian Taylor's air shot and Arsenal went up the other end and scored
  John Gregory
Hendrie off

The referee Rob Harris at first did not realise that he had already given Hendrie a yellow card, and it was only when Grimandi reminded him that he ordered the Villa player off.

Ironically it was Harris who failed to send off a Tranmere player in similar circumstances in a FA Cup game against Sunderland last season.

Arsenal now began to take control and started to create more openings as Villa tired.

Vieira returned after a five match ban
Vieira returned after a five match ban
Sylvain Wiltord should have done better when Pires pulled the ball back for him in the area and then Bergkamp sprinted on to a Dixon clearance and ran clear on James in the Villa goal.

James came out to meet the Dutchman who lifted the ball over the Villa keeper but Southgate tracking back just managed to clear the ball off the line.

Wiltord then had two chances to wrap things up right at the end, but he dragged his first effort wide of James' goal and his second was smothered by the Villa keeper.

Arsenal probably did enough to deserve the three points but it was only after Lee Hendrie was sent off that they really dominated.

Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Grimandi, Silvinho, Parlour, Lauren, Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires. Subs: Keown, Wiltord, Luzhny, Lukic, Kanu.

Aston Villa: James, Wright, Southgate, Alpay, Barry, Hendrie, Stone, Taylor, Dublin, Merson, Joachim. Subs: Ehiogu, Boateng, De Bilde, Vassell, Enckelman.

Referee: R Harris (Oxford)

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