Arsenal top the table after injury-time win

Arsenal headed to Villa Park on Saturday, with the early kickoff providing Mikel Arteta’s side with an opportunity to reclaim the top spot ahead of Manchester City’s 3pm trip to Nottingham Forest. Both Arsenal and Villa were defeated 3-1 by City last time out.

Ben White was preferred to Tomiyasu at right-back for the Gunners, with Leandro Trossard replacing Martinelli at left-wing. Emile Smith-Rowe returned to the bench, after a notable absence with a thigh injury. Unai Emery’s Villa side featured five changes from their defeat to City – Mings, Cash, Moreno, McGinn and Coutinho returned to the starting lineup, meaning Chambers, Young, Digne, Ramsey and Bailey all dropped to the bench.

AVL: Martinez (GK); Moreno, Mings, Konsa, Cash; Coutinho, Kamara, Douglas Luiz, McGinn (C); Watkins, Buendia

ARS: Ramsdale (GK); Zinchenko, Gabriel, Saliba, White; Xhaka, Jorginho, Odegaard (C); Trossard, Nketiah, Saka

Villa took a surprise early lead through Ollie Watkins, after Matty Cash surged past Oleksandr Zinchenko and found the English forward on the left flank. Watkins drove past Saliba before drilling a shot across the face of the goal into the bottom corner, giving the hosts the advantage early on!

Unai Emery’s side continued to apply the pressure, though it was Arsenal with the next chance as Nketiah found Saka’s cross – but it was cleared off the line by Mings as the linesman raised his flag for offside.

Bukayo Saka would find the back of the net to bring the visitors level on the 16 minute mark. Ben White’s cross into the box was blocked, but it fell back to the winger who smashed it over Emi Martinez on the half-volley to send his side level. The goal gave Arsenal a renewed confidence, and for a few minutes they began to dominate.

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Philippe Coutinho restored Aston Villa’s lead 15 minutes later, after Moreno’s cross into the box ran through Buendia’s legs before finding the Brazilian who sent a ball towards goal – nestling into the bottom corner despite a slight deflection.

Bukayo Saka and Douglas Luiz received the first yellow cards of the game following an argument just before the break. Unai Emery’s side had performed well in the opening 45 minutes, and the Spaniard was surely relishing being ahead of his former club at the interval.

Arsenal enjoyed plenty of possession early on in the second half, but Villa’s tight and compact back line made it difficult for Arteta’s side to break through and find a second equaliser. The Gunners faced an injury scare ten minutes into the second half, as Saka required strapping on his ankle following an earlier incident.

Nketiah came close to bringing the visitors level once again as he connected with Ben White’s cross – but the striker’s header looped too high and found the top of the crossbar. The Gunners didn’t have to wait much longer for an equaliser though, as Saka found Odegaard from a corner. The Norwegian midfielder played it back out to Zinchenko on the edge of the box, and the Ukrainian defender duly slotted home into the bottom-right corner.

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Villa’s first threatening chance of the second half came through Leon Bailey, who had been introduced as a sub fifteen minutes earlier. The Jamaican surged down the right flank before unleashing a shot from a tight angle, but a sensational save from Ramsdale saw his effort tipped onto the bar.

Emi Martinez was finally booked for time-wasting after taking far too long with his goal-kicks, and some Arsenal fans will argue that he should really have been in the book much earlier.

Arsenal continued to search for a late winner, which they eventually found through an own goal by ex-Gunners goalie, Emi Martinez. Martinelli played in Jorginho on the edge of the box, and the Italian fired a powerful shot against the underside of the bar – though it bounced off the back of the Argentine keeper’s head and trickled back across the line! Villa simply couldn’t believe it!

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Unai Emery’s side weren’t going to give up that easily, and they sent everyone – including Martinez – forwards for a corner in the 98th minute. The ball fell to Fabio Vieira, who surged forwards before squaring the ball to Martinelli in the centre of the pitch – with the Brazilian celebrating even before he passed the ball over the line into the back of the net!

Arsenal return to winning ways once again, and maintain their position at the top of the table for the time being as their title rivals Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw at the City Ground. Arteta’s side now have a two-point-lead over Guardiola’s side, and they still have a game in hand over the Citizens. As for Villa, they remain 11th.

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