EPL

Arsenal title hopes hit as Aston Villa strike late to earn deserved Emirates win

By Sports Desk April 14, 2024

Unai Emery’s Aston Villa severely dented Arsenal’s Premier League title bid as two late goals gave them a deserved 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium.

In yet another twist in the run-in, the Gunners were well beaten as Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins struck within three minutes of one another to stun the home fans.

Liverpool had lost at Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday and a fifth league defeat of the campaign for Arsenal leaves Mikel Arteta’s side in second – two points behind reigning champions Manchester City.

Villa were brilliant in a second half they dominated and their superiority eventually paid off as substitute Bailey tapped home at the back post before Watkins took advantage of Arsenal’s high line to burst through on goal and finish with aplomb.

This was former Arsenal boss Emery’s first trip back here with Villa and it was one he would have enjoyed as the Spaniard danced up the touchline when Bailey broke the deadlock.

Sandwiched between both legs of a Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich, this Villa match was always going to prove a test for Arsenal and it was one they failed.

Kai Havertz forced Emiliano Martinez into a low save early on before both Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka saw efforts hit the side-netting.

Gabriel Magalhaes has been a rock at the back for Arsenal this season but he gifted possession to Watkins, who almost took full advantage only to see his shot come back off the inside of the post.

Arsenal went straight down the other end and almost took the lead themselves only for ex-Gunner Martinez to make a stunning reflex save to keep out a close-range Leandro Trossard attempt.

Saka then curled a shot inches wide as Arsenal could not find a way through to relieve some of the pressure building around the Emirates.

The sides went in level at the break but Villa were the much better outfit after the interval, restricting the hosts to just four shots in the second half.

With his side in the ascendancy, Emery turned to his bench and introduced Bailey in place of Moussa Diaby, although it was Youri Tielemans who came close moments later.

Oleksandr Zinchenko was caught in possession on the edge of his own box, with Tielemans robbing the ball and hitting both crossbar and post with a fierce drive.

Arteta replaced Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Jesus as he looked to freshen things up but in the closing stages it was Champions League-chasing Villa who would push on to get the three points their performance thoroughly deserved.

Bailey was in the right place at the right time as Lucas Digne’s low cross evaded everyone and landed at the back post where Bailey swept home into an empty goal.

Arsenal reacted by moving even higher up the pitch but it was to prove their undoing as a long ball over the top was raced onto by Watkins, who broke from his own half to collect, hold off Emile Smith Rowe and clip a wonderful finish over David Raya.

While the result could have a massive baring on the destination of the Premier League title, it also improves fourth-placed Villa’s hopes of Champions League qualification as they now move three points clear of Tottenham.

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