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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 December 2007, 19:12 GMT
Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal
By John Sinnott

Mathieu Flamini
Flamini scored his second Premier League goal of the season
Premier League leaders Arsenal went five points clear at the top after an impressive away win over Aston Villa.

Arsenal had to come from behind after Craig Gardner side-footed past Manuel Almunia to give Villa an early lead.

But by the interval Arsenal were ahead after keeper Scott Carson was beaten by Mathieu Flamini's ferocious shot and Emmanuel Adebayor's thumping header.

John Carew came desperately close to equalising for Villa when his angled header came back off the crossbar.

Villa's approach might have been more utilitarian than that of Arsenal, but their forceful style disturbed the league leaders in a keenly competitive second half.

It was very different from an opening half that saw Arsenal produce some quite wonderful periods of play.

Without their chief conductor - Cesc Fabregas was absent through injury - Arsenal turned to Alexander Hleb to pull the strings.

The Belarus midfielder proved more than an adequate stand-in, so much so that at times in the first half Arsenal were reminiscent of Holland circa 1974.

That Holland side had defenders that were as comfortable on the ball as their attackers and Arsenal, in Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy, have defenders that provide enormous attacking momentum.

Arsenal had suffered their first defeat of the season in midweek to Sevilla in a Champions League game, but in the early stages of the game there was no sign of any European hangover.

606: DEBATE

Carson was twice called into action as he pushed Eboue's shot round the post and then saved with his feet to deny Hleb.

Against the run of play Villa took the lead when Gardner stroked a volley past Almunia after Carew's cross deflected into the path of the Villa midfielder.

Within two minutes Arsenal hauled themselves level with a wonderfully worked and taken goal.

A swift interchange between Eboue and Adebayor freed the Ivory Coast defender and although Tomas Rosicky was unable to reach the cross, Flamini certainly was, lashing a shot past Carson.

Ten minutes before half-time another superb touch from Eboue helped to unravel the left flank of the Villa defence.

The ball finally reached Bakary Sagna, whose floated cross was met by Adebayor's soaring jump and Carson was powerless to stop the Togo striker's strong header.

Villa emerged after the break in determined mood and Martin Laursen went close after the ball broke to him in the box.

Just before the hour Hleb had to go off after he was fouled by Carew to be replaced by Theo Walcott.

Carew was soon back in the action in a more positive way when his clever header rebounded off the bar with Almunia beaten.

With Arsenal so gritty in defence of their lead, Villa's frustrations at their inability to equalise began to show and Ashley Young was booked for diving in the penalty area.


  • Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill:

  • "We totally dominated the second half. Arsenal are a very fine side, but we deserved to get a point."

    "We showed great character in the second half and I don't think Arsenal have been put under that sort of pressure for some time.

    "The players just have to have that belief that they can win these type of games. Our attitude was magnificent."

  • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

  • "I think the first half was amazing.

    "We were quick and sharp on the move, while in the second half we were resilient and showed commitment and calm to deal with the pressure.

    "This was a big test for us. We were really tested when we were losing and we deserve a lot of credit. We wanted to extend our lead and we're happy."


    Aston Villa: Carson, Mellberg, Knight, Laursen, Bouma (Berger 76), Gardner, Petrov (Maloney 32), Barry, Young, Agbonlahor, Carew.
    Subs Not Used: Taylor, Harewood, Davies.

    Booked: Bouma, Carew, Young.

    Goals: Gardner 14.

    Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue, Diarra, Flamini, Rosicky (Silva 74), Hleb (Walcott 60), Adebayor (Bendtner 90).
    Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Senderos.

    Booked: Adebayor, Gallas.

    Goals: Flamini 23, Adebayor 36.

    Att: 42,018

    Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).



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