x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Agbonlahor fires down the Gunners

Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a fantastic breakaway strike and pressured Gael Clichy to head into his own net in Aston Villa's win at Arsenal.

Ashley Young is sent flying by Theo Walcott to earn a penalty which he took himself and missed.
Ashley Young is sent flying by Theo Walcott to earn a penalty which he took himself and missed.

LONDON // Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a fantastic breakaway strike and pressured Gael Clichy to head into his own net as Villa's whiz-kids put on a show at the ground where the young Gunners had been so impressive five days earlier. Arsenal's youngsters had earned plaudits all round after destroying Wigan 3-0 in the Carling Cup in midweek with display of breathtaking attacking football.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was so impressed with his youngsters that he named two of the victorious team, Carlos Vela and Aaron Ramsey, on the substitutes bench, joining the rested Emmanuel Adebayor. But it was Villa's talents that shone brightest at the Emirates and they could even afford a missed penalty - when Ashley Young fired straight at Manuel Almunia in the first half - as they showed some of the steel that could make them title contenders in the not-to-distant future.

Wenger used his programme notes to highlight the speed of Agbonlahor and Young, and the latter of Villa's pacy pair had the first effort on goal with a long-range drive that went straight at Manuel Almunia. Arsenal have their own speedster in Theo Walcott, who raced past Luke Young to latch on to Denilson's pass through the Villa defence, but the low cross missed his teammates. Villa should have been in front after 20 minutes only for Young to miss a penalty he had earned himself.

Mikael Silvestre had cleared only as far as Young after a deep cross caused chaos, with Walcott sliding in when the Villa winger surged back in the box. Almunia went the right way to save the weak penalty but it still required a brave tackle from William Gallas as Young chased the rebound. Young would not have been taking the penalty had Gareth Barry not been injured in the build-up, with Cesc Fabregas getting a yellow card for clattering into the England midfielder.

Despite their setback, Villa still took the game to the hosts, and former Arsenal trainee Steve Sidwell volleyed straight at Almunia. Young almost atoned for his penalty miss with a drive that went just wide of Almunia's post, and he had another effort that went straight at the Arsenal goalkeeper after a mazy run. After the break, Arsenal were still struggling for fluency, so Wenger made his move just after the hour mark - with Adebayor coming on to replace Abou Diaby.

But it was Villa who got the breakthrough in the 70th minute. Young twisted and turned down the Arsenal left before cutting back and sending a vicious ball into the box with his right foot. As Clichy tried desperately to fend off the Agbonlahor's effort, the ball glanced off the Frenchman's head and past Almunia. The Gunners tried to respond but Villa were defending doggedly on the edge of their own box.

And as one such attack broke down in the Villa half, Martin Laursen cleared the ball while sat on his backside. Agbonlahor was on to the long ball in a flash, holding off Gallas before nodding the ball down to fire home at the near post. Wenger felt there was a foul in the build-up, compounding his misery. * PA Sport