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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
17 August 2013
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: A. Taylor
• Attendance: 60003
O. Giroud 6'
C. Benteke 22', 61'
That's it from me in an amazing game of football at the Emirates. I've been Tom J Doyle, and stick around for match reaction from the game as well as all the other results on a hectic opening day of the 2013/14 Premier League campaign. Bye for now.
Things started brightly for the Gunners with Olivier Giroud's early opener, but Wojciech Szczesny gave away a penalty which Christian Benteke converted on the rebound after the Poland shot-stopper saved the spot-kick. Laurent Koscielny then gave away another (harsh) spot-kick in the second half and saw red minutes later after Benteke made no mistake from the spot this time round, while Antonio Luna capped a dream debut with a nonchalant finish late on.
And that's it! Aston Villa shock Arsenal by taking a 3-1 victory at the Emirates, and the home crowd are not happy at all. Arsene Wenger may contest the key decisions, but since the first penalty conceded the Gunners began to unravel badly, in terms of both tactics and discipline.
90' + 5'
Yellow Card Gabriel Agbonlahor
90' + 5'
Delph picks up a deserved booking, but the free-kick from the halfway line is wasted as Guzan collects the harmless cross.
90' + 4'
90' + 4'
For reasons unknown, Wenger has only just decided to bring on Lukas Podolski. Not a lot of time for the forward to make a difference, really.
90' + 2'
STAT ATTACK: 3 - Arsenal have had players sent off in their opening game in 3 of the last 4 seasons (Koscielny 2010, Gervinho 2011, Koscielny 2013). Red. (via @OptaJoe)
90' + 1'
The Emirates is clearing out fast now as Arsenal look set for defeat now, and there's concern for Sagna as he falls straight on his head and neck from a high aerial challenge. It really doesn't look like a good fall for him there - let's hope he's alright.
The Villa fans are in full song now as they look set to seal a memorable opening day win. They've ridden their luck at times, but they've come to Arsenal with a game plan to hit the hosts on the counter, and it's paid dividends.
The Arsenal crowd are shouting 'You don't know what you're doing' at Wenger, and this has turned into a shambles for the Gunners manager. His side can argue the decisions, but it's been a display marked by poor discipline and naivety.
Assist Andreas Weimann
LUNA NETS ON HIS DEBUT! What did I just say?!?! Villa carve open the Arsenal defence and the full-back has 45 yards of space to run into. He has so much time to pick his spot and slides a cool left-footed finish expertly into the bottom left-hand corner of Szczesny's net - no chance for the 'keeper, and Lambert is in dreamland.
Villa break again here but Agbonlahor can't find Delph and the opportunity is wasted. The Gunners have so much attacking talent, but don't bet against Villa getting a third with Wenger's men pushing up.
Ramsey has a low effort from 30 yards, but Guzan gets down comfortably to his right to save. It'd have to be a special effort to beat the 'keeper from there, but Arsenal are still pressing despite being a man short.
Wilshere wants a penalty now and screams at Taylor as the crowd join him in his protests, but in truth the midfielder was simply crowded out by stronger opponents as he edged into the box.
Chance by Benteke! The striker is trhough and in the box, but pulls his low shot wide of Szczesny's right-hand post from an acute angle on the right. With his talent he probably should have wrapped things up there.
Weimann has the chance to seal it after good work by Benteke, but his shot is blocked, and the Belgian forward is then flagged offside in an attempt to sneak the ball back.
Yellow Card Santi Cazorla
Cazorla is the latest player to go into the book - it's all getting a bit messy for Wenger's men.
What a save from Guzan! Rosicky heads the ball through to Cazorla who volleys at the Villa goal from 10 yards, but the 'keeper does superbly to tip the bouncing ball up onto his own bar and away from danger. What a performance from the American so far.
For the first time in the game, Villa can play a little bit of keep-ball. Wenger will be so frustrated his side have let a relatively comfortable lead slip away, but the visitors were always going to be dangerous on the break - and Arsenal simply haven't been set up to tactically cope with Lambert's side today.
15 minutes left for Wenger's men to avoid an opening day disaster at the Emirates. Surely Cazorla has to play more centrally for the closing stages?
Great save from Guzan! Rosicky does fantastically to play a one-two with Giroud and the veteran finds himself through, only for his low effort to be smothered by the American. The Czech Republic star should have had at least one goal today.
The Mertesacker challenge looks worse every time you see it - he could easily have been shown a straight red card for showing both sets of studs, and Arsenal are somewhat lucky they didn't lose both centre-backs at the same time.
4 - Laurent Koscielny has picked four red cards in only 89 Premier League appearances. Rash. (via @OptaJoe)
Vlaar is lucky here as he bodychecks Rosicky, but Taylor elects not to show the Villa man a second yellow card.
It was a stupid tackle made in anger after giving away a penalty somewhat unjustly, but you have to keep your head in those situations, and Koscielny can have no complaints over the dismissal. Mertesacker was lucky as he went in two-footed while the referee blew up for Koscielny's foul.
Yellow/Red Laurent Koscielny
KOSCIELNY IS OFF! Arsenal fail to deal with a long ball and the French defender goes in late on Agbonlahor, leaving Taylor with no choice but to show a second yellow card. What do Arsenal do now?
Yellow Card Ashley Westwood
Westwood goes into the book now for a late tackle, but he won't care a bit if Villa get a victory here today.
Villa break again here through Benteke and the forward wastes a pass from the left wing with Weimann lurking in the centre. This game is here for the taking for Lambert's side if they stay strong and get forward quickly.
Penalty Goal Christian Benteke
BENTEKE SCORES FROM THE SPOT! He sends Szczesny the wrong way this time, finishing in the same location as his first missed penalty. The forward has two for the day, and Arsenal are imploding here.
Yellow Card Laurent Koscielny
Does Koscielny win the ball here? He slides in on Agbonlahor in the box and appears to get a toe to the ball before the forward tumbles, but Taylor points to the spot. That looks harsh on the defender, who can't believe the decision - and he's booked as well.
Yellow Card Christian Benteke
PENALTY TO VILLA!
Vlaar is enjoying his battles with Giroud today - he easily sees the ball out under pressure from the Frenchman. Wenger will need a little more strength from his target man.
A little bit of afters here as Matthew Lowton thumps into Wilshere off the ball, much to the annoyance of the home crowd.
Delph hits the post! The youngster drives towards goal and with Mertesacker backing off, he decided to crack an effort at goal. The ball beats Szczesny but rebounds off his left-hand post, and Arsenal survive.
Rosicky misses! The midfielder should bury the ball as he's clean through from 16 yards, but opens up his body too much and curls an effort over the bar. What a waste from an experienced player.
Giroud has a half-chance here, but his shot is scuffed and blocked from 10 yards and Guzan picks up the rolling ball...
Cazorla seems to be wasted out on the left - expect him to drift infield as the game wears on. That could leave Jenkinson exposed on the wing, however, and Lambert will be looking to exploit that flank.
That's a waste from Weimann as he breaks down the right, but looks for a difficult cross-field ball to Agbonlahor instead of Benteke in the centre. He wants a penalty for handball but Taylor is having none of it.
Ramsey looks for Cazorla on the wing but he accidentally punts it off of Giroud's shoulder - not a great way to kick things off, Aaron.
Can either side keep calm for long enough to provide us with a winner? Arsenal have the quality in possession, but look unable to cope with Villa on the break, so we should have a fascinating battle as the game wears on.
We're off again at the Emirates, and Santi Cazorla is on for the Ox - that means trouble for Villa...
Wojciech Szczesny has had a surreal first half - he should have seen red for giving away the penalty, then got up to make a top stop before Benteke netted then rebound. Then he was almost lobbed from 40 yards after a rush of blood to the head left him way out of his box - can Wenger trust him this season?
STAT ATTACK: 7 - Christian Benteke has scored seven goals in his last eight PL appearances. Continuation. (via @OptaJoe)
That's the break! Olivier Giroud got Arsenal off to a flyer with an early poached effort, but Wojciech Szczesny (eventually) gave awaya a penalty which Christian Benteke converted on the rebound. Tempers have flared more than a pair of 1970's trousers, and we should be set for a cracking second 45 minutes.
45' + 4'
Yellow Card Luna
45' + 4'
Westwood delivers towards Benteke but the Belgian get to the ball and Arsenal break, and Oxlade-Chamberlain crashes into Luna. The Villa man is, for some reason, the one shown the yellow card despite the Arsenal man's knee ending up in his chest. Odd decision from referee Taylor there.
45' + 2'
Late corner for Villa here - can they end the half leading?
45' + 1'
Wilshere tries a cute lob over the Villa defence but Clark holds off Giroud to the Frenchman's annoyance. Never a foul in a million years, but that wont stop the home fans protesting.
Arsenal are hunting a second as the first half draws to a close here - Guzan needlessly gives the ball away but the Gunners' move breaks down, the American apologises, and slows the play down a little.
Rosicky feeds Walcott down the right and the forward pulls it back at the byline for Giroud, but the striker can't find the room to finish. The half started well for the Gunners, but it's beginning to unwravel a little now.
Ooh, Agbonlahor is hopping up and down here as he is wide open on the right, but Delph fails to find him with a simple through-ball. Arsenal's defence is a little porous at the moment.
What is Szczesny doing?! The Arsenal 'keeper sprints way, way out but doesn't deal with a long ball, and Benteke tries to round him from 40 yards. He loses out but Ashley Westwood thinks he's Eric Cantona goes for a 40-yards chip, which the shot-stopper has to scramble back to acrobatically tip wide. My, my...
Oxlade-Chamberlain gallops forward towardas the Villa goal but his pass is behind Jenkinson, who can't find a team-mate with a low pass from the right.
Close for Walcott! There's a mix-up between Luna and Guzan here with neither willing to claim the ball, and Walcott pinches the ball from the clutches of a prone Guzan - but he can't find Giroud properly to tap into an empty net. A waste there.
The Arsenal crowd sarcastically applaud getting a free-kick here - they feel hard done by, but they haven't got a case over the penalty.
Guzan flies out to punch the free-kick away - and Villa are almost through here! Delph wastes the ball with Weimann clear through - it was a great block by captain Per Mertesacker in truth.
Yellow Card Ron Vlaar
Yellow Card Jack Wilshere
Everybody's getting tetchy now as Ron Vlaar flies into a block tackle with Wilshere to cause a mass scuffle, and the defender gets a yellow card for his troubles. Taylor will have to calm things down a little here beforew somebody gets sent off.
Carl Jenkinson is on for Gibbs, as the injury is too close to his eye to continue.
The break in play for Gibbs gives us a moment to go back to the penalty - referee Taylor played the advantage, but with Arsenal players scrambling back to block Weimann's follow-up, the official had no choice but to point to the spot. Wenger didn't look pleased, but that's football.
Kieran Gibbs is a bloody mess here as Weimann catches him with his head in an aerial collision. Blood is streaming down his face and the left-back looks in some discomfort.
Giroud is furious at giving away a free-kick in the Villa box here and it's all threatening to boil over. What a start!
Penalty save Wojciech Szczesny
Goal Christian Benteke
BENTEKE SCORES! Szczesny saves the penalty well but the ball spins up into the air, and the Belgium striker makes no mistake by planting a header past the unlucky 'keeper. Game on!
Missed Penalty Christian Benteke
Controversy here as Agbonlahor races through the entire Arsenal team and Szczesny brings him down. The ball falls to Weimann who misses, but Taylor points to the spot. Arsenal are apoplectic, but it's the right decision. The 'keeper escapes with a yellow card...
Yellow Card Wojciech Szczesny
PENALTY TO VILLA!
Chance for Giroud now, but he can't get enough on the header and can only steer it wide of Guzan's left-hand post. The striker is hungry for more goals today.
Arsenal have committed six fouls to Villa's two so far - Wenger's side are taking it to Lambert's and not letting them breathe.
Baker hasn't been able to shake off that early injury and has been replaced by Ciaran Clark. He'll be desperately disappointed to be subbed so early.
A sign in the stands reads "You Can't Buy Class" - but can Arsene Wenger buy anybody? It doesn't look like he needs Luis Suarez at the moment, but it's a long, long season...
Benteke tries to take on Bacary Sagna on the left wing but the French full-back does well to see the ball back to Wojciech Szczesny. Top stuff from a player thought likely to leave the Emirates this summer.
Wilshere looks for a curved pass over the top to Walcott but the ball is blocked out. Great idea, and there'll be plenty of passes like that this season.
Villa are always going to be a threat on the counter today and Agbonlahor is showing plenty of pace down the left wing. He cant fashion a chance for anybody with his low cross, but Benteke is sniffing around for chances in the centre.
Well, what a start for Giroud. Much has been made of Wenger's pursuit of first Gonzalo Higuain and then Luis Suarez, but if the Frenchman keeps netting like that, the Gunners boss may not need a new finisher.
Both teams are down to 10 men - but it's due to injury as Walcott and Nathan Baker are hurt. Both have carried on though.
Assist Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Goal Olivier Giroud
GIROUD SCORES! It's all so easy for Arsenal as Wilshere twists away from danger at left-back and Vlaar commits himself to a challenge on the halfway line, letting in Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England midfield races down the line into the box and cuts the ball across for Giroud to finish low past Brad Guzan from six yards. A top start for the Gunners.
Aaron Ramsey hooks a wasteful ball across midfield and Laurent Koscielny fouls Benteke in the middle of the park. The Welshman will have to be better in possession than that.
Tomas Rosicky tries a cute through-ball for Giroud here but the Villa defence does just enough to block out the France striker. A confident start from Wenger's men.
Two corners in quick succession here and there are ealy shouts for a penalty for Arsenal, but nothing doing from referee Anthony Taylor.
Arsenal win a corner here as they come flying out of the traps. Can they sneak an early lead?
We're underway! With more goals at the Emirates last season than anywhere else in the top flight, let's hope for a few today.
The teams are coming out of the tunnel and the home crowd expects - but can the Gunners deliver without a major signing? Villa had a desperate season last year, but they certainly won't be pushovers today.
70 - The Emirates Stadium saw more goals than any other ground in the Premier League last season (70). Bonanza. (via @OptaJoe)
Lambert meanwhile will be looking to stretch the Gunners' back-line with the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Wiemann's ingenuity, and Christian Benteke's - well, just Christian Benteke in general.
Wenger is going with a young attacking line-up today in Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere supporting Olivier Giroud, while Santi Cazorla and Lucas Podolski have to settle for a place on the bench,
Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Luna; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor. Subs: Okore, Clark, Bacuna, Helenius, Steer, Bowery, Tonev.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Rosicky; Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Giroud. Subs: Podolski, Cazorla, Fabianski, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Gnabry.
Good afternoon and welcome to the LIVE commentary of Arsenal vs Aston Villa. Arsene Wenger's side kick off their 2013/14 season at the Emirates without a major signing, while Paul Lambert will be hoping Christian Benteke can perform his heroics once again this season to ensure a better campaign for the Villans.
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