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A brace of goals from Christian Benteke and a debut goal from Antonio Luna helped Aston Villa to a shock 3-1 win over Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League.
Benteke followed in his own saved penalty to head home after Gabriel Agbonlahor was brought down in the box by Wojciech Szczesny, cancelling out Olivier Giroud's sixth-minute opener in the process. Laurent Koscielny then fouled Agbonlahor to gift the visitors another spot-kick, which Benteke converted first time. And Luna then wrapped things up with a cool finish on the break deep into the second half.
The result represents a dream start for a Villa side who spent long periods of last season battling against relegation, while Arsenal's chances received an early blow.
Santi Cazorla started the game on the bench due to his lack of fitness, though Jack Wilshere earned a starting berth for the hosts. In the opposite dugout, Paul Lambert handed a start to just one of his close-season signings - Spanish full-back Luna - in a team similar to that which had narrowly escaped relegation last term.
And the visiting supporters' concerns regarding another battle against the drop were hardly eased when Giroud opened the scoring with just six minutes on the clock. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had little trouble in escaping the attentions of Matthew Lowton down the left before cutting into the box to provide the Frenchman with a tap-in he could not miss.
Villa's day then went from bad to worse just 10 minutes later, when Nathan Baker was forced off with an injury and had to be replaced by Ciaran Clark. The visitors could have collapsed after receiving those early blows, but Lambert's men evidenced their resolve and they had their rewards not long after courtesy of a great Agbonlanhor run.
The Englishman slalomed beyond the Arsenal defence after picking the ball up in a deep position and tempted Szczesny into bringing him down in the box. The Pole was booked and saved Benteke's penalty, only for the ball to loop up for the Villa striker to nod home.
Szczesny then elected to go on a foray out of his box a few moments later, which resulted in a hashed clearance and he only avoided conceding by virtue of a full-stretch save. But Arsenal held firm against the resulting corner and a string of Villa counter-attacks to go in at the break level.
With Kieran Gibbs having been forced off with a cut above the eye, Wenger was forced to turn to his bench at half-time again to introduce Cazorla in place of the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Spaniard's involvement did little to change the flow of the game, though, with Villa continuing to threaten and even hitting the inside of a post via a long-distance Fabian Delph strike.
They had the opportunity to take a deserved lead on the hour, as Koscielny's challenge on a breaking Agbonlahor in the box was adjudged to have been a foul. Benteke again stepped up to take the spot-kick, and he did not need a rebound this time as he sent Szczesny the wrong way to put Villa 2-1 up.
Wenger's woes were then compounded when Koscielny lunged into a challenge with Andreas Weimann to receive a second yellow card. But there was still time for yet more disappointment for the hosts, as a fantastic through-ball from Weimann allowed Luna to burst beyond the Arsenal defence and pass the ball home beyond Szczesny.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We want our fans to be happy and when you don't achieve that you feel absolutely sorry and really disappointed. My job is to make the fans happy but we haven't lost the game because of [not signing players].
"If we do not spend money it's because we don't find the players. I'm not the only one to work on that, we are a team who works on that and we are ready to buy the players if we find that the players are good enough for us. We are on the market, everybody knows that we want to buy players but until we buy players we have to win football games. It's not an excuse not to have bought players to lose the game today.
"People always say 'buy players, buy players, buy players' when you tell them 'tell me who' it becomes much more problematic. We take our work seriously and believe me we analyse every single player in the world. We work 24 hours a day for that and when you make a decision we take it seriously. We are not what people try to think we do not want to spend, we want, we are ready to buy players. Not only do we lose a game we have many injuries. It's unbelievable how many people are on the treatment table."
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "Everybody up and down the country thought it was a home banker probably. But I've got lads in here who are really top footballers and Agbonlahor was just unplayable.
"He was absolutely fantastic, it was as good a performance as I've seen from an individual in many a year - nobody can catch him when he's in that form. But he's been like that probably the last four months of last season and he's started this season the way he has.
"We've got miles and miles to go but what it has done is given us a great start to the season. We had a terrific crowd watching us today and we've got a really tough first three games. Everybody thought we would get no points out of the first three games if you look at the fixtures, but the performance today - the counter-attack football we played was outstanding."
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|22 Sep 2013||v Stoke (H)|
|28 Sep 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|06 Oct 2013||v West Brom (A)|