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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
February 23, 2013
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 60079
Cazorla 6', 85'
A. Weimann 68'
Arsenal move to within one point of the top four with a hard fought win over Aston Villa, courtesy of two goals from Santi Cazorla. Paul Lambert's men looked like they might steal a point but defeat sees them fall back into the relegation zone.
FULL-TIME: Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa
90' + 3'
Arteta is caught on the ball by Benteke as Arsenal look to stroll towards the full-time whistle, but Arsenal manage to win the ball back and regroup. Guzan's long ball causes a moment of panic before Szczesny rushes out to collect the ball.
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
Four minutes to be added on here as Arsenal look to hold on for all three points.
CHANCE! Theo Walcott has an opportunity to seal the points but he can't beat Guzan from a tight angle after initially doing well to work the space for a shot.
Lowton gets forward down the right flank and drifts a good ball in towards the back post but Szczesny reads the dangers and pounces to claim the ball.
A collective sigh of relief inside the Emirates as Arsenal save themselves an almighty backlash from their fans with that goal. The game, though, is all but over as Aston Villa hope to land one more shock before the match is over.
Goal Santi Cazorla
GOAL! Arsenal finally make the breakthrough! Wilshere plays a fantastic ball to set Monreal on his way down the left-hand side and the Spaniard's cutback finds his countryman, Cazorla, inside the box. The midfielder keeps his head and clinically slots the finish into the bottom right-hand corner past Guzan.
WHAT A CHANCE! Theo Walcott drives towards the byline and clips a smart ball into the area which Lukas Podolski is inches away from turning in!
Cazorla sweeps an inviting low cross right along the six yard box but no Arsenal player is in the area trying to get on the end of it. Arsenal fans are getting restless.
OFF THE BAR! Olivier Giroud rattles the wood work after rising high and meeting Walcott's corner. Arsenal are getting closer and closer, can they force the ball over the line?
Aston Villa are hanging on as Arsenal throw the kitchen sink at them. Arsene Wenger is rocking in his seat on the touchline, these next 10 minutes or so are going to be absolutely gargantuan in the Gunners' hopes for Champions League qualification.
Olivier Giroud ambitiously hits a shot from a tight angle about 30 yards from goal which tamely rolls into Guzan's arms, bringing moans and groans from the Gunners' fans.
Lukas Podolski is introduced to the action as Arsene Wenger desperately tries to give his side the impetus.
Karim El Ahmadi
Dear me, tense, tense moments at the Emirates. Weimann has had an impressive game and almost finds Benteke at the back post with a floated cross. Aston Villa are beginning to believe they can take all three points here.
CHANCE! Great challenge from Lowton on Vermaelen to stop the Belgian from turning in Walcott's low cross into the box. Arsenal are pushing forward, but Villa remain a very real threat on the counter.
Assist Charles N'Zogbia
Goal Andreas Weimann
GOAL! Andreas Weimann shocks the Emirates to bring the Villans back on level terms! It all stemmed from a corner for the Gunners, as the visitors broke with pace and purpose with the Austrian firing in a shot from just outside the area past Szczesny. The Arsenal keeper could have done better there, the Emirates stunned into silence.
Yellow Card Fabian Delph
All the action is directed towards Brad Guzan's goal, Cazorla is the latest to have a strike from the edge of the area but his shot is bravely blocked by Lowton. Superb defending from Aston Villa.
Arsenal are pressing and probing in and around the Villa area but at the moment the visitors are defending stoically. Giroud has a chance to get on the end of a cross from Ramsey but hesitates and let's the chance pass him by.
It looks like Abou Diaby has picked up yet another injury here, Aaron Ramsey is being readied to replace the Frenchman.
CHANCE! Aston Villa break from an Arsenal corner and it's four against three in attack but Agbonlahor's header from Weimann's cross into the back post is well wide of the target.
Walcott lays a ball off to Jack Wilshere and the crowd urges him to shoot. The Englishman obliges but sees his left-footed effort deflected for a corner. The resulting delivery is well caught by the American.
Santi Cazorla's low cross takes a flick off Lowton and almost catches Guzan out at his near post. Alert goalkeeping from the Aston Villa man.
It's all Arsenal early on in this second half but a lot of their possession is in front of two banks of Villa players.
Cazorla floats a cross into the box from the left-hand side, which is headed right back at him by a Villa defender, but his first touch inside the box lets him down and the move breaks down.
Wilshere does well to dig out a ball into the box under pressure from Clark but Guzan comfortably gathers under very little pressure.
CHANCE! Arsenal twice choose the wrong option in front of goal. First, Santi Cazorla decides to turn on the ball rather than play a simple pass out to Walcott in acres of space before Giroud opts to have a strike at goal from a tight angle rather than square for the unmarked Wilshere. Wasteful stuff from the hosts.
Nacho Monreal makes a superb challenge on Lowton to win possession high in the Villa half but his cross is headed off target by Giroud.
Early chance for the visitors in the second half as Weimann's near-post flick is almost met by Benteke from Westwood's corner. Moments later Ciaran Clark has a brilliant chance with a free header but sends his effort from close range over the bar.
Aston Villa take the kick-off to get us underway in the second period.
Ewan Roberts reports from the Emirates: "It has been a thoroughly enjoyable half of football at the Emirates, with both sides creating chances. Arsenal took an early lead through Santi Cazorla, though Aston Villa have shown their fangs on the break and the Gunners have Wojciech Szczesny to thank for keeping a first-half clean sheet, with the Polish keeper forced to make a number of smart stops."
HALF-TIME: Arsenal 1-0 Aston Villa
45' + 2'
It's Villa who are ending the half on top but are finding it difficult to penetrate this deep lying Arsenal defence. Wenger's men settling for a one-goal going into the break.
Two minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the half.
CHANCE! Diaby and Giroud both have shots bravely blocked by Villa defenders from inside the area after the Gunners broke right back at the Villans after snuffing out their earlier counterattack.
The free kick is wasted and Villa launch a dangerous counterattack with Jenkinson, eventually, recovering to make a last ditch challenge on Weimann as he looked to fire off a shot.
Arsenal are camped inside the Villa area. Jack Wilshere has a couple of pops at goal but eventually settles for a free kick on the right-hand side.
CHANCE! Giroud and Cazorla combine well on the edge of the box but the Frenchman can't find a finish past Guzan from a tight angle, before putting his effort from the rebound wastefully into the side netting.
CHANCE! Nacho Monreal gets to the byline on the left-hand side and fires a teasing ball into the Villa box which Giroud is only inches away from making contact with.
Yellow Card A. Diaby
Yellow Card Matthew Lowton
Agbonlahor on the ground requiring a spot of treatment. Villa attempt to get themselves on the front foot, but Lowton overruns the ball before bringing down Vermaelen with a late challenge.
Jack Wilshere feeds the overlapping Nacho Monreal with a superbly weighted through pass but the Spaniard's effort from outside the area is tame and easily gathered by Guzan.
Mikel Arteta looks for Theo Walcott with a long diagonal ball with the Englishmen getting in behind Bennett, but unfortunately his first touch is poor and the ball runs for a goal kick.
CHANCE! Theo Walcott misses the back post by a couple of yards with a left-footed curling effort from just inside the box. It was a decent effort after fine approach play from Wilshere and Diaby.
Abou Diaby dwells on the ball and has his pocket picked by Weimann but Arsenal survive the danger as Vermaelen makes a good challenge on N'Zogbia as the Frenchman drove into the area.
Frustration is growing at the Emirates after Olivier Giroud loses the ball and then gives away a free kick to the visitors. He then makes up for his errors as Westwood's dink into the box is headed clear by the Frenchman.
CHANCE! Andreas Weimann continues his bright start to the match with another good run down the right flank. His low cross into the box is met by Benteke who forces Szczesny into a smart save. Mertesacker then manages to hook away the rebound after a goal-mouth scramble.
Theo Walcott gets himself to the byline, putting the afterburners on to get behind Joe Bennett but his cross into the box has no Arsenal team-mate trying to get on the end of it.
This is very sloppy from the Gunners. A short spell on the ball is spent inside their own half before Abou Diaby's lazy prod up the pitch hands possession straight back to the Villans.
Concerns for the visitors as Charles N'Zogbia, after a bright start, has stayed down after a challenge with Mertesacker. He looks okay to continue after receiving treatment.
Aston Villa are bossing the ball at the Emirates would you believe! Paul Lambert's men have 54 per cent of the ball in the last 10 minutes. Cries of 'Come on Arsenal' ring around the ground.
CHANCE! This is end-to-end stuff! Aston Villa go straight up the other end and Andres Weimann's low cross along the face of the Arsenal goal is almost turned in by Gabriel Agbonlahor.
CHANCE! Arsenal break with pace through Theo Walcott but his cross into the box eludes both Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere.
Villa have regrouped well after conceding that early goal. They're enjoying a decent spell of possession and look likely to create chances against a fragile Arsenal defence.
CHANCE! Nervous moment for the Arsenal defence. N'Zogbia drives forward down the right flank before cutting inside and laying a pass off for Gabriel Agbonlahor to strike. The Englishman's effort, though, is hit straight at Szczesny.
Villa have a couple of chances to construct an attack in the Arsenal half but N'Zogbia, and later Benteke, both waste decent chances with a pair of sloppy passes.
Goal Santi Cazorla
GOAL! Santi Cazorla opens the scoring for the Gunners! The Spaniard's left-footed cross was blocked back into his path inside the box, allowing him to shift the ball onto his right foot and bend a low effort through a crowd of Villa players and into the bottom corner.
CHANCE! Good save from Brad Guzan to deny Arsenal an early lead. Jack Wilshere broke forward down the inside left-flank and elected to shoot rather than pick out Theo Walcott, forcing a fine save out of the Villa shot-stopper.
Ewan Roberts reports from the Emirates: "The match has only been underway for a couple of minutes, but it already feels like defence v attack. Arsenal are controlling possession and probing, Villa are sitting deep and looking to counter."
Plenty of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon. One seat with a bum in it, though, is that of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke. Not the most popular figure in north London.
Arsenal take the kick-off and we are underway at the Emirates!
Aston Villa starting XI: Guzan; Lowton, Clark, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, Delph; Agbonlahor, Weimann, N'Zogbia; Benteke. Subs: Marshall, El Ahmadi, Holman, Sylla, Bowery, Dawkins, Lichaj.
Arsenal starting XI: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Diaby, Wilshere; Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla. Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Gervinho, Podolski.
Good afternoon ladies and gents! Welcome to Goal.com's play-by-play coverage of Arsenal v Aston Villa from the Emirates Stadium LIVE!
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