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Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal: Villa up to 2nd in Premier League

Football 2023-12-10, 5:52pm

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Aston Villa moved to within two points of the summit of the Premier League with a narrow win over Arsenal, who missed out on a chance to go top.

Villa took the lead at Villa Park through skipper John McGinn, who brought Leon Bailey's cross under control before hammering the ball into the net.

Arsenal had a late Kai Havertz effort ruled out for handball by referee Jarred Gillett, with the video assistant referee upholding the call after a lengthy review.

Despite Arsenal pressure, Villa held on to back up their statement victory over champions Manchester City on Wednesday and record a club record 15th straight home league victory.

Defeat will be a blow for title-chasing Arsenal, whose run of six straight wins in all competitions came to an end.

Only in 1980-81, when they last won the title, have Aston Villa taken more points after 16 games of a top-flight season, and there is a real belief that they can break into the top four.

There are even whispers that Unai Emery, once of Arsenal, could manage an outside push for the title.

Villa are the only Premier League club not to have dropped a point from a winning position this season, and, although Arsenal had the better chances after falling behind, Villa did create a few more of their own.

Ollie Watkins forced two good saves from Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya, one of them when clean through, although the England striker was soon flagged for offside.

In the second period Lucas Digne and Watkins both had shots saved following counter-attacks.

Villa defended with discipline and intensity, ultimately benefitting from a late VAR call to stay third, one point off Arsenal in second place, and win their opening eight home matches in a top-flight season for the first time since 1932-33.

Late VAR drama denies Arsenal
Arsenal started Saturday top of the table, dropping to second after Liverpool's win over Crystal Palace at lunchtime.

Mikel Arteta's side's last defeat had come at Newcastle at the start of November and his team had been enjoying a four-match winning run in the league.

They created plenty of chances at a boisterous Villa Park. Bukayo Saka put a shot wide from close range just before McGinn's opener and Gabriel Martinelli dinked the ball over Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez but saw his effort hacked off the line by Diego Carlos in the first half.

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard had good chances from 12 yards out either side of the break. The first was saved by Martinez, while the second skidded wide.

They also had a penalty shout just after half-time when Douglas Luiz caught Gabriel Jesus' ankle in the area, only for the VAR to uphold referee Gillett's decision to wave play on.

The Gunners came close again midway through the second period when a routine corner was spilled by Martinez and deflected off Watkins on to the post before being cleared away with William Saliba lurking.

And Saka had the ball in the net in the second half after dribbling around Martinez but had timed his run a fraction too early.

But the real drama was still to come. In stoppage time Havertz brought down a cross and hacked the ball into the Villa net.

The goal was immediately ruled out on the field, but it took a VAR review to confirm Havertz had inadvertently controlled the ball with his hand.

Arsenal would not create another clear chance, slipping to a second league defeat of the season.