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Arsenal leave it late for Villa

Written By: Robert Halter

After Arsenal lost 1-0 at home to Blackburn Rovers in the fifth round of the F.A. Cup, the Gunners suffered a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their last sixteen UEFA Champions League fixture at the Emirates Stadium and if they are to qualify for next season’s competition, Arsenal would have to cement fourth spot in the Premier League, starting again with the visit of Aston Villa, who were just outside the relegation zone. It was a vital game for both clubs at the latter stage of February. On four minutes, Jack Wilshere charged through but his final shot was blocked by Brad Guzan. Although the Gunners had to wait only two more minutes to open the scoring, as Wilshere found space for Santi Cazorla, whose first effort rebounded off Nathan Baker and at the second attempt Cazorla’s low strike went through both the legs of Baker and then Villa captain Ciaran Clark, as the ball found the bottom right corner. On eleven minutes, Villa counter attacked as Charles N’Zogbia passed the ball over to Gabriel Agbonlahor, whose high rising connection was palmed away by Wojciech Szczesny. On twenty six minutes, Szczesny pulled off another save at full stretch to keep out N’Zogbia’s attempt, after fine work down the right wing by Andreas Weimann to create the opportunity. Five minutes later, a curling strike by Theo Walcott sailed narrowly past the far corner as the Gunners threatened again. It wasn’t until four minutes from normal time in the first half that Arsenal had another chance as Guzan’s legs were enough to stop a shot from Olivier Giroud, on the left side of the box. Five minutes into the second half, Giroud was in front of the target again but wildly fired over. But against the run of play, Villa drew level in the sixty eighth minute as from the centre circle N’Zogbia supplied Weimann, who ran the length of the Arsenal half before unleashing a low drive that flew past Szczesny, who reacted slowly . It took a magnificent save by Guzan to turn Giroud’s header against the bar from a Walcott corner to prevent the Gunners forging ahead in the eighty first minute. But Arsenal saved it for the late show as Wilshere set up Nacho Monreal down the left flank, whose low cross was put away by a well timed strike from Cazorla, who found the right side of the net in the eighty fifth minute. With ninety minutes approaching, Walcott could have sealed the victory but fired the ball directly at Guzan. Although by this time, Arsenal had done enough to secure a 2-1 win before their showdown with bitter local rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.