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BBC Sport's Dave Woods
"A less than satisfying game"
 real 14k

Sunday, 18 March, 2001, 18:02 GMT
Villa hold Arsenal in dull stalemate
Lee Hendrie (l) tussles with Arsenal's Sylvain Wiltord
Lee Hendrie (l) tussles with Arsenal's Sylvain Wiltord
Aston Villa 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal and Aston Villa shared the points after a dreary stalemate at Villa Park.

Arsenal were the better side on the balance but even they created little in the way of meaningful chances.

The late arrival of substitute Dion Dublin gave Villa more spark but the home side, who have had just two Premiership wins since Boxing Day, lacked any real edge up front.

Juan Pablo Angel appeared in the Villa starting line-up after missing out in the last two games.

Villa manager John Gregory has pleaded for his 9.5m striker to be allowed time to settle in to life in the UK.

Juan Pablo Angel of Aston Villa
Angel: substituted after 64 minutes
From the evidence of the first half, there is one British tradition that the Colombian has not yet got to grips with - the Arsenal offside trap.

Angel showed willing and chased around in search of the ball but on numerous occasions strayed into offside positions.

His game ended after 64 minutes when he was replaced by substitute Darius Vassell.

With Paul Merson having an off-day against his old club and David Ginola's effectiveness being snuffed by Lee Dixon, Villa's front pair were starved of service.

Cold day

There was a bitter chill in the air at Villa Park and for the first few minutes of the game it was the Arsenal defence who seemed to have been caught cold.

Missing David Seaman, Tony Adams and Martin Keown, their tentative defending on a bouncy pitch allowed Villa to make a bright and bustling opening but the thrust of the home team was short-lived.


It was a hard-earned point and one that we will take gladly
  John Gregory

Then Arsenal, unlike the falling snow, began to settle and seemed the more likely to score during the rest of the first half.

Not that there ever looked like being a glut of goals in a muted first half in which few openings were created.

After 20 minutes, Patrick Vieira's clever pass sliced open the Villa defence but David James was quick to react and his lunging tackle prevented Freddie Ljungberg from getting to the ball after the Swede had allowed the ball to over-run.

Just after the half-hour, Lee Dixon made a sharp break down the right but the unmarked Dennis Bergkamp was unable to control his low cross.

Minutes later, Ljungberg broke down the left and nipped inside Steve Stone but Sylvain Wiltord scuffed his shot.

Patrick Vieira is booked
Vieira was booked for a foul on Julian Joachim

Ten minutes into the second half, Gareth Southgate was harshly booked, rousing the crowd to show their indignation.

This at least had the effect of upping the tempo on the pitch and both teams began to play with more urgency.

Ljungberg again caused trouble down the Villa right but Wiltord turned his cross into the side-netting.

It was still Arsenal who looked more likely to score.

James did well to deal with a Dennis Bergkamp effort at the near post while Vieira headed just wide from a corner.

Last chance

With four minutes left, Gilles Grimandi had the best scoring opportunity of the match.

As the ball was cleared from an Arsenal corner, Bergkamp picked out Grimandi in space in the penalty area.


Our problem at the moment is to score goals but the pitch was atrocious
  Arsene Wenger

But the Frenchman's tame poke at the ball ensured a let-off for Villa and re-enforced the feeling that this game was destined to end in a draw.

Grimandi's misery was completed in the final minute of the game when he was sent off for his second bookable offence.


Aston Villa: James, Joachim, Alpay, Wright, Southgate, Taylor, Stone, Ginola, Hendrie, Merson, Angel. Subs: Enckelman, Delaney, Barry, Dublin, Vassell.

Arsenal: Manninger, Luzhny, Grimandi, Silvinho, Dixon, Vieira, Parlour, Lauren, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Wiltord. Subs: Pires, Henry, Vivas, Lukic, Cole.

Referee: B Knight (Orpington)

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