Gunners fight back against Villa
Written By: Robert Halter
A Thierry Henry winner against Leeds United in round three had guided Arsenal through to a F.A. Cup fourth round home tie against Aston Villa. After a handball from Robbie Keane in the fifth minute, from a resulting free kick by Robin Van Perise, it gave Thomas Vermaelen the opportunity to strike a long range thunderbolt which was tipped over with reflex goalkeeping by Shay Given. On twelve minutes, Tomas Rosicky put the ball into the path of Theo Walcott but after charging his way through Walcott’s resulting shot missed the target. Midway through the first half, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s attempt at a low drive from distance, drifted wide of the near post. But against the run of play, Aston Villa took the lead on thirty three minutes, when from Stiliyan Petrov’s short corner, Keane floated in a cross to Richard Dunne, whose header looped over Lukasz Fabianski into the back of the net. A minute from the end of normal play, Given made a crucial block from Chamberlain off a Van Persie free kick before Villa increased their lead just before the break as Stephen Ireland put a pass to Darren Bent, that split open the Arsenal defence and when Fabianski saved Bent’s first attempt, he was helpless to prevent Bent scoring from an acute angle as the ball was driven into the left side of the goal. Three minutes into the second half, the Gunners went close when from Van Persie’s corner, a header by Per Mertesacker was cleared off the line by Ireland. Although, Arsenal were given a lifeline on fifty two minutes when Alex Song supplied a ball to Aaron Ramsey, who was pulled down in the box by Dunne and referee Michael Jones pointed to the spot. Van Persie stepped up to slot his kick into the bottom left corner to reduce the deficit to one. It inspired Arsenal to draw level on fifty six minutes, after Walcott cut inside Stephen Warnock and as his shot deflected off Given, Alan Hutton’s attempt to hook the ball clear hit against Walcott and landed up in the goal. In a remarkable turn around to the match, Song provided another pass that resulted in penalty when Laurent Koscielny was pulled down by Bent in the area and Van Persie despatched his second spot kick, this time sending Given the wrong way to put the ball into the right side of the net. Arsenal pressed again on sixty seven minutes, when a strong block by Given, kept out Walcott’s well struck ball. Van Persie’s attempt to put the tie to bed on seventy three minutes went over the upright after Ramsey gave Walcott the ammunition to cross. However, Arsenal had turned the tie in their favour to hold onto the 3-2 advantage to keep their cup hopes alive.