Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal: John McGinn early strike seals victory for high-flying Villa

With the opportunity to extend their unbeaten Premier League run at Villa Park to a staggering fifteen games and close the gap to Arsenal to just a solitary point, Unai Emery’s Aston Villa welcomed the Gunners on Saturday evening.

AVL: Martínez; Digne, Torres, Carlos, Konsa; McGinn, Luiz, Kamara, Bailey; Tielemans; Watkins

ARS: Raya; Zinchenko, Gabriel, Saliba, White; Havertz, Rice, Ødegaard; Martinelli, Jesus, Saka

Having defeated – and dominated – Manchester City in midweek, Aston Villa’s confidence was high as they welcomed an impress Arsenal side to the Midlands. It would receive a boost in the 7th minute of Saturday’s clash, as John McGinn bundled home from inside the area after fine work from Leon Bailey on the right flank.

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Yet with ten minutes remaining before the half-time interval, their lead came close to disappearing as a rare Emi Martínez mistake saw the goalkeeper mistime his run towards the onrushing Gabriel Martinelli – allowing the Arsenal winger to chip him, forcing a fine goalline clearance from Diego Carlos to preserve their advantage.

It wouldn’t be the solitary clearance he had to make though, with the defender called upon once more as the hour mark approached – this time to pick up the pieces after Martínez’s parried clearance ricocheted off the back of Ollie Watkins.

Bukayo Saka thought he’d restored parity after rounding the ‘keeper to pick out the back of the net a few minutes later, but the Englishman was denied by the offside flag as his celebrations were cut short.

The drama would continue right until the death, with Kai Havertz also seeing a late goal denied in the 90th minute after the referee judged him to have handled the ball inside the area before sneaking an effort over the line. A lengthy VAR review incurred, but a lack of a clear and obvious error saw the on-field decision stand.

Aston Villa now move to just a point behind Arsenal, and sit two points off Liverpool who currently sit in pole position. They’re now five points ahead of Manchester City, as they continue to establish themselves as serious European contenders.