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Aston Villa climbed out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three with a share of the spoils in a goalless draw against Arsenal at Villa Park. A point did little to bolster Arsenal’s attempts of re-igniting their hopes of a top-four finish in a game of few clear-cut chances.
It needed a fine save from Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to deny Villa substitute Brett Holman a late winner. Villa manager Paul Lambert had to watch the game from the stands after his one-match ban but would have taken great heart from the way his side performed.
Ciaran Clark limited the threat of Lukas Podolski and helped to secure his side’s third clean sheet of the season. Up front Christian Benteke posed problems for the Arsenal back four against the team he supported as a youngster. Arsenal have taken only one point from their past three away games and came to a ground where they have been unbeaten since 1998.
There was a quiet start to the game although Arsenal enjoyed most of the early possession. Villa captain Ron Vlaar made an important last-ditch tackle to halt a powerful surge forward by Kieran Gibbs. Szczesny came out of his area to clear a Barry Bannan through-ball aimed at the run of Benteke.
The Arsenal goalkeeper made the first save of the game in turning aside a shot from a narrow angle by Andreas Weimann. He dealt more comfortably with a long-range attempt from Bannan and Benteke headed wide from an Ashley Westwood corner.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan made his first meaningful save after 29 minutes, reacting sharply to keep out a deflected shot from Aaron Ramsey. Weimann had the ball in the net after Clark’s shot from the resulting free-kick by Bannan dropped into his path but he had strayed offside, while Per Mertesacker produced a fine tackle to halt Gabriel Agbonlahor’s run.
Laurent Koscielny missed the best chance of the first half after 43 minutes. Olivier Giroud supplied the low cross and Koscielny found himself unmarked after a slip by Clark but he miscued his shot over the bar.
Villa were forced to make a change after 51 minutes when Vlaar limped out of the action to be replaced by Eric Lichaj. He slotted in at right-back with Matt Lowton switching to the centre of the back four.
Ramsey shot wide at the near post from a low Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross and volleyed over from a deep Santi Cazorla corner. But Villa were still posing a threat to their opponents and Benteke had a header deflected past the post from Bannan’s corner.
Szczesny got his body behind a low attempt from Agbonlahor after being teed up by substitute Holman. Ramsey was then only just wide with a low skimming shot.
The Arsenal goalkeeper came to Arsenal’s rescue when he finger-tipped a fierce Holman effort on to the bar with 12 minutes remaining.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "We've played the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal in back-to-back games and it's a tough thing mentally. But we played really well today. We were excellent and might have nicked it.
"We defended really strongly. We are playing really well. We are a young side which is growing together and the way we are playing, we are a threat."
"It is my choice [not to play Darren Bent]. The squad I went with could win us the game. I've got 25-26 players to think about. The most important thing is this football club and I pick a team and squad I think will do well."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We were a little bit frustrated. We expected a difficult game because we played an intense game last Saturday against Tottenham. We had a Champions League game on Wednesday night so we knew it would be hard.
"Always, when you play away from home after the Champions League it can be difficult. We lacked a bit of sharpness today in the final third. Physically we were jaded."
"I decided that Jack [Wilshere] was to be rested today and to not bring him on. It's more dangerous to bring him on in [wet] weather like that when he's tired. It made sense for him not to play today."
|01 Jan 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|15 Dec 2012||v Liverpool (A)|
|29 Jan 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|16 Mar 2013||v QPR (H)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Southampton (H)|
|27 Nov 2012||v Reading (H)|