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Premier League: Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0

Aston Villa have further dented Arsenal’s hopes of a top-four finish with a resolute display at Villa Park, which finished 0-0 on Saturday.

The hosts did well throughout, limiting their opponents to half chances with a strong defensive performance, while working several openings of their own. However, Paul Lambert’s men achieved no real penetration.

The visitors often looked the more likely side to take the lead, but with chances spurned by the likes of Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to be the Gunners’ day.

Villa manager Lambert elected to stick with the team that lost heavily to Manchester City last week, with the exception of Karim El-Ahmadi, who came into midfield at the expense of Stephen Ireland.

For the visitors, Jack Wilshere was rested and Theo Walcott failed to recover from a shoulder injury, while starts were handed to young full-backs Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.

The first real chance of the match fell to the hosts, as a fantastic corner from Ashley Westwood found the head of the Christian Benteke, who jumped well but was unable to test goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal then created an opportunity of their own, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain broke in behind the Villa defence before finding Aaron Ramsey.

The Welshman did well to work space for a shot from just inside the penalty area, but Brad Guzan managed to get his body behind the strike.

Both sides almost broke the deadlock just before the break. First Villa had the ball in the back of the net, as a Ciaran Clark strike from a well-worked free-kick was turned in by Andreas Weimann. To the Austrian’s disappointment, however, he was adjudged to have been offside.

Moments later, Lukas Podolski drove a cross into the box and found Laurent Koscielny in acres of space. The Frenchman struggled to adjust his feet and could only manage to smash the ball high into the stands.

The visitors raced out of the starting blocks for the second period, as some neat play between Cazorla and Olivier Giroud led to a shooting opportunity for the former, but the Spaniard fired narrowly wide of Guzan’s top corner.

But Lambert’s men continued to push for a goal of their own and were almost gifted one as Weimann managed to find Agbonlahor just yards out from the Arsenal goal. The striker, under pressure, could only direct his effort straight at Szczesny.

The Poland international then pulled off a magnificent save to keep the scores level, as Holman unleashed a powerful 25-yard drive toward goal which the keeper tipped on to the crossbar with his fingertips.

Despite a flurry of late chances from the visitors, Villa’s defence continued to hold strong and earned themselves an important Premier League point.

Sat 24 November, 2012
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