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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005, 14:38 GMT
Aston Villa 0-0 Arsenal
Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas avoids Eirik Bakke's challenge
Arsenal's stuttering form away from Highbury continued in a tame draw which saw Aston Villa have the better of the play without managing to score.

Villa's Milan Baros and Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini both failed to hit the target after being played through.

Freddie Ljungberg hit the crossbar for Arsenal, while Kolo Toure missed from close range in the final minutes.

Gunners keeper Jens Lehmann saved from Gareth Barry, Eirik Bakke volleyed wide and Juan Pablo Angel headed over.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made four changes from the side that defeated Portsmouth 4-0 on Wednesday.

Robin van Persie returned from injury, while the creative talents of Alexander Hleb, Cesc Fabregas and Ljungberg were restored to the midfield.

And while Arsenal did have their chances, their failure to beat an inconsistent Villa means they have now won just two of their 10 Premiership away games this season.

Indeed, it was Villa who played with greater intensity and looked the most likely to score.

James Milner narrowly missed with a quickly taken free-kick, Lauren almost headed into his own net and Toure made a superb covering tackle to prevent Luke Moore converting a Baros cross as Villa pressed and probed in the opening stages.

A vicious strike from Barry swerved and was well saved by Lehmann, while Villa felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Toure appeared to kick Moore as they challenged for the ball.

In addition, Baros made several superb runs but was constantly foiled by the offside flag as the visitors defence held a high line.

Arsenal, on the other hand, overplayed when in attack, looking to play a killer ball through Villa's well-organised defensive structure.

But seven minutes from the break a deft touch by Hleb played Flamini through on goal but the French youngster smashed his shot wide when he should have tested Thomas Sorensen at the very least.

A poor defensive header fell to Moore after the break and he played Baros clean through.

Instead of bearing down on goal Baros looked around for support before eventually shooting well over.

Arsenal then underlined their threat with Ljungberg's shot against the woodwork.

Villa won a corner, with the ball eventually dropping to an unmarked Bakke at the far post, but the Norwegian midfielder skewed his volley.

The game had opened up significantly and it was Arsenal who threatened next, Sorensen saving a long-range strike from Van Persie.

Denis Bergkamp came on for Arsenal and Angel for Villa.

Angel might have scored a late winner but headed Barry's cross over the bar, while Toure failed to hit the target from four yards with two minutes left.

  • Aston Villa manager David O'Leary:
    "Against that opposition I have to praise our players.

    "Both sides had chances and I expected our strikers to do better with the couple of chances we had but I'm absolutely delighted for the players.

    "We've been on a nice run in the league but we have another game on Monday. I'm looking forward to giving the lads a couple of days off after that."

  • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
    "Defensively we were sound and solid but offensively we can be much better and it was a scrappy performance.

    "We never looked on the same wavelength going forward, although we did had a couple of chances.

    "We never put any collective pressure on Villa and therefore it was more difficult for the strikers."

    Aston Villa: Sorensen, Hughes, Delaney, Ridgewell, Barry, Milner, McCann, Bakke, Davis, Moore (Angel 76), Baros.
    Subs Not Used: Taylor, Djemba-Djemba, Whittingham, Gardner.

    Booked: Delaney.

    Arsenal: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cygan, Ljungberg (Pires 78), Hleb (Reyes 76), Flamini, Fabregas, Van Persie (Bergkamp 67), Henry.
    Subs Not Used: Senderos, Almunia.

    Booked: Cygan.

    Att: 37,114

    Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).

    Interview: Aston Villa boss David O'Leary

    Interview: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger


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