Benayoun's goal sinks Villa

2011-12-22 08:58

London - Yossi Benayoun left it late to steal the points for Arsenal as the Israel midfielder's 87th minute header clinched a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Arsenal had taken an early lead through Robin van Persie, who now has 34 goals for the calendar year after a first half penalty – equalling Thierry Henry's club record – and is only three goals away from beating Alan Shearer's Premier League record.

Villa winger Marc Albrighton etched his own name into the history books when he equalised in the second half with the 20 000th Premier League goal, but Benayoun's header three minutes from time ensured Arsenal won for the eighth time in 10 matches.

The Gunners' victory moved them level on points with fourth placed Chelsea ahead of the Blues' trip to Tottenham on Thursday.

The hosts have now crashed to four defeats in the last five matches and had Scotland international Alan Hutton dismissed in injury time for an appalling challenge on Thomas Vermaelen.

Alex McLeish, the Villa manager, had described Arsenal as "formidable" in the build-up, despite their title hopes lying in tatters, and Arsene Wenger's side were the dominant force after a nervous opening few minutes.

Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szcesny produced a point-blank save from Gabriel Agbonlahor, after an inch perfect cross from Charles N'Zogbia, after seven minutes.

But the visitors were handed the initiative on 16 minutes when Theo Walcott won a penalty as he advanced into the area and was needlessly brought down by Ciaran Clark.

The goal came from the most predictable of sources, with Van Persie emphatically ramming home his 16th Premier League goal of the season.

Villa required goalkeeper Brad Guzan to rush from his line to prevent Walcott from adding a second shortly afterwards, and the early confidence from the hosts was shattered and replaced with apprehension.

Stephen Ireland was recalled by McLeish for his first start since October but the midfielder appeared confused with his role, playing in a deep lying position behind Agbonlahor, and was substituted shortly before halftime with an injury.

Ireland's replacement, Barry Bannan, came agonisingly close to making an immediate impact by bending a free kick narrowly over with his first touch.

But Albrighton wrote his name into Premier League history nine minutes into the second period when he capitalised on a weak header from Vermaelen to break into the area and coolly slot the ball under Szczesny's body.

Arsenal, and Van Persie, were convinced they should have had another penalty when Stephen Warnock brought down the Dutchman but all he received was a booking.

But it was Van Persie's corner that allowed Benayoun to head home the winner and extend their hoodoo over Villa.

The home side's frustration was complete when Hutton received a second booking for scything down Vermaelen.