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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
14 January 2014
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: N. Swarbrick
• Attendance: 36097
C. Benteke 76'
J. Wilshere 34'
O. Giroud 35'
90' + 7'
FULL-TIME! The referee blows his whistle for full-time and Arsenal secure the win. Although they dominated the first half and took a deserved 2-0 lead, Arsenal were far from comfortable in the end. Christian Benteke got back on the scoresheet for the first time in four months in the Premier League, but ultimately they could not do enough despite an encouraging end to the match. Thank you for joining me today. I hope you have enjoyed the action.
90' + 6'
Yellow Card Jack Wilshere
90' + 5'
Villa have been so wasteful with their final ball in stoppage time. This looks set to pass them by as we approach the final minute of the match.
90' + 4'
Villa are putting on all the pressure here, but Arsenal create one chance on the break. Wilshere scoops a pass into the area for Cazorla, but the Spaniard's shot is saved by Guzan after being forced out wide.
90' + 1'
Huge roars from the home fans greet the six minutes of added time. Wenger nervously slinks back to his seat in the dugout.
There is the chance! Lowton's cross from a deep central position evades Arsenal's defenders and Benteke heads it at goal, but thankfully for Szczesny it was almost straight at him.
The hosts has responded very well in this second half, but at the moment they will leave the match empty-handed. They have two minutes plus stoppage time to grab a point.
A sub replaces the sub. Rosicky is unable to continue following that bang to face by Agbonlahor. Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on to make his first appearance since August, which coincidentally was also against Villa.
Yellow Card Gabriel Agbonlahor
Agbonlahor's name goes into the referee's little black notebook for a rather cynical tug on Ozil's shirt.
Arsenal cope well with the corner, but they clear it straight back to Villa. They are coming under a lot of pressure at the moment.
Crucial header from Mertesacker! Lowton crosses well from the right and Benteke looks destined to meet it with another header, but the German defender nods it behind for a corner.
Delph is quick to get a shot away after the restart, but his low effort from 30-odd yards is easy picking for Szczesny.
The match is back underway after a couple of minutes of medical attention for Rosicky.
Benteke and Ozil exchange choice words, with the German clearly unhappy about Villa not putting the ball out of play.
Arsenal players continually ask Villa to put the ball out of play, but the home players aren't interested. In the end Benteke is tackled and the ball goes out for a throw-in.
Villa break away following a wasted Arsenal corner and Rosicky takes a whack in the face while challenging with Agbonlahor in the air. The referee waves play on, however.
The hosts have 12 minutes plus stoppage time to steal a point. Can they do it, or will Arsenal hold on and perhaps reopen a two-goal lead?
Assist Matthew Lowton
Goal Christian Benteke
GOAL!!! Villa pull one back at Villa Park! Lowton is given a lot of space on the right and he bends a teasing cross in from deep and Benteke meets the low delivery with a diving header. The Belgian ends his goal drought!
Finally, some promising play by Benteke. The Belgian did well to bring down a high cross from the right. He proceeded to hold off his marker before shooting while on the fall, but he missed the target. That was one of the first things he has done in this.
Karim El Ahmadi
Good chance for Arsenal. Gibbs latches on to a lofted ball over Lowton and cuts the ball back to Giroud, whose first-time effort goes just wide of the near-post.
There is very little flow to the match currently. This may have something to do with Arsenal sitting back and playing more conservatively, while Villa are seeing more of the ball. This really has been very easy for the visitors so far.
Here comes another Arsenal change. Gnabry is replaced by Rosicky.
Unsurprisingly, Monreal is forced off following that suspected knee strain. Gibbs replaces him at left-back.
Good strike by Westwood. Delph cuts the ball back and his midfield partner meets the ball about 25 yards from goal, smashing it first-time. Szczesny is equal to the powerful drive, however.
Encouraging period of play for Villa. Lowton crosses well from the right, but the colossus that is Mertesacker rises highest to head away. Nevertheless, Villa keep Arsenal penned into their own area.
Good effort by Cazorla as he is given acres of space on the left before trying with his weaker foot from at least 25 yards, but Guzan gets down and holds the shot.
After gingerly making his way back towards the halfway line, Monreal has come back on to the pitch. He still isn't moving freely.
Monreal has left the pitch and is hobbling back other towards the dugout. It is still unclear as to whether he will continue or not, however. Gibbs is warming up, though.
Monreal is in some pain here. Replays show that the Spain international may have tweaked something in his knee following the clash with Vlaar.
Massive last-ditch challenge by Vlaar! Cazorla showed excellent awareness to pick out Monreal in the left side of the area. The full-back cut inside Lowton, but their Dutch defender flew across to block the eventual shot.
Arsenal have the ball in the back of the net again as Giroud produces a clever, deft finish from just outside the area, but the referee had already blown his whistle as Wilshere was offside in the build-up.
Villa waste another set-piece as the free-kick sees possession quickly end up at the feet of Arsenal.
Good battling by Agbonlahor and the forward wins a free-kick from Wilshere, about 30 yards from Arsenal's goal.
Good effort by Bacuna. The ball drops kindly for the midfielder and he hits a half-volley at goal, but unfortunately for Villa it is straight at Szczesny.
Another set-piece comes to nothing, however, and Arsenal are quick to clear their lines.
Villa now win a free-kick in an withdrawn position on the right as Flamini commits a foul.
Westwood fires a powerful delivery into the area from the corner, but Szczesny slaps it away.
Villa come out the blocks well and win themselves a corner almost straight away.
Arsenal get the second half underway.
HALF-TIME! The referee blows his whistle for half-time. Arsenal take a deserved two-goal lead into the break after a lethal two-minute passage of play which saw Wilshere and Giroud grab their goals. Villa have a lot to do if they are to salvage anything from this.
45' + 6'
Delph tries to break forward through the centre and he does advance quite far. He holds off the attentions of a couple of defenders while producing numerous stepovers, but he is eventually stopped by Cazorla.
45' + 3'
Arsenal launch a counterattack and Ozil makes good ground down the right. He plays a nonchalant pass in towards the edge of the area, but it is cut out. Wilshere is quick to win the ball back, however, and he backheels it to Cazorla. The move quickly comes to an end, though, as Villa crowd them out.
45' + 1'
Eight minutes of stoppage time have been added.
Ozil whips the ball in, but nothing comes of the set-piece.
Sagna gets into a good area in attack and finds the cross, but the ball is deflected behind. Corner to Arsenal.
Agbonlahor gets himself into a good position as he takes up possession on the left flank after sneaking behind Sagna. However, after finding the space to cross, his delivery does not get beyond the second man. What a waste.
Giroud has been so effective in this first half. He has continuously dropped deep to collect possession and hold the ball up, and he has done so very well.
Villa appeared to be well in this as a contest, but the match has turned on its head within two minutes. They have a mountain to climb now.
Assist Jack Wilshere
Goal Olivier Giroud
GOAL!!! Arsenal double their lead almost immediately! Wilshere plays an integral role as he robs El Ahmadi of possession before chipping a pass forward to Giroud. The Frenchman brings it down with an exquisite touch while on the run, keeps it away from Lowton and then squeezes a shot into the same corner of the goal as Wilshere. Excellent.
Goal Jack Wilshere
GOAL!!! Arsenal take a step back towards the top of the table as Wilshere gives them the lead! Monreal cuts a clever ball back to the edge of the area from the left. Cazorla leaves it for Wilshere, who fires into the bottom-right corner.
Initially Villa's free-kick looks dangerous as Westwood tries to head the ball back across the face of goal, but the referee blows his whistle for offside.
Yellow Card Monreal
Monreal is the latest player to get a yellow card. Lowton produces a clever pass beyong the left-back for Agbonlahor and the Spaniard callously brings the rapid attacker down.
Cazorla's delivery is inviting and several Arsenal heads are close to nodding it goalwards, but Guzan punches it clear.
The referee does eventually give a free-kick, although annoyingly Villa it goes in favour of Arsenal. Gnabry drifts out to the left and is knocked over in a dangerous position. Cazorla will take the kick.
This is starting to get a little feisty. Villa are clearly feeling rather aggrieved after not getting a few fouls, while Sagna gets a hefty kick on the ankle by Luna.
Agbonlahor nearly creates a good chance out of nothing as he chases down a long ball over the top. Koscielny fails to clear it or bring it under his control and the forward gets goal side of him in the area. The France international hooks a leg around him, however, partly clearing in the process.
Decent chance for the hosts as Delph crosses from the left and El Ahmadi reaches it with a header, but his attempt lands on the roof of the net.
With that change Villa appear to have reverted to a standard 4-4-2 formation. Lowton moves to right-back, Luna stays out on the left and Bacuna slots into the midfield.
Baker leaves the pitch on a stretcher. Bacuna takes his place.
Baker looks to be in serious trouble here. We are approaching five minutes of medical attention, with a large number of paramedics seeing to the defender. He still isn't on his feet.
There is a pause in play now as Baker seeks medical attention. The defender's face appeared to take the full force of a Gnabry shot and it doesn't look good for the Villa man.
Great opening for Villa! Monreal sells Koscielny short and Benteke pounces on the edge of the area. He beats the French defender to the ball and squeezes it to Delph, who takes a shot and shoots from 20 yards, but he drags the effort wide. He really should have at least hit the target.
Arsenal have had 75 per cent of the possession so far in this first half. That says it all.
The visitors are putting numerous pretty passing moves together, linking up brilliantly in the attacking midfield area, but Villa are holding firm at the moment.
Arsenal cause more problems down the right. Once again Sagna is given the freedom of Birmingham and he fires in another devilish cross. Giroud nearly gets to it, but he appears to be pulled down and the ball flashes harmlessly across the face of the goal. The Frenchman wants a penalty, but he isn't getting one.
This is all Arsenal so far. The away side are knocking the ball around for fun and under little pressure. Villa are playing a dangeorus game.
Big chance for Arsenal! Sagna curls a wonderful cross into the penalty area and Giroud rises to meet it, but he heads wide of the target. He should have at least made Guzan work there.
Arsenal create little out of the corner as Villa clear with relative ease. Wenger's men are quick to win possession back again, however.
Arsenal attack with intent down the right. Sagna cuts inside and crosses with his left foot, a delivery which is sliced over the crossbar by a defender. Corner for the visitors.
Yellow Card Karim El Ahmadi
It hasn't taken the referee long to brandish the match's first yellow card. El Ahmadi clatters into Wilshere, with his elbow seemingly raised and he deservedly goes into the book.
Here we go. Villa start the action.
The teams are out on the pitch, with kick-off just a few moments away.
If Christian Benteke does not score today, his Premier League goal drought will extend to four months. He last scored on September 14 in a 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle United.
Villa have kept only two clean sheets in their previous 21 home matches.
However, when these two met each other on the opening day of the season Villa emerged victorious, winning 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
The omens will be on Arsenal's side today. They have not lost on any of their last 14 trips to Villa Park in the Premier League, winning seven and drawing the rest.
Arsenal subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ju-Young Park
And the Arsenal starting XI is: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Wilshere, Flamini; Cazorla, Ozil, Gnabry; Giroud.
Villa subs: Steer, Sylla, Bacuna, Tonev, Helenius, Weimann, Albrighton
The Aston Villa team is: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Luna; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Agbonlahor, Benteke.
Hello and welcome to the live text commentary of Aston Villa versus Arsenal in the Premier League. My name is Ryan Benson and I shall be describing the action for you today.
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