Arsenal win at Aston Villa to go top of Premier League

Date published: Sunday 13th December 2015 3:20

Olivier Giroud: Celebrates scoring Arsenal's first goal at Aston Villa

Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey scored first-half goals as Arsenal won 2-0 at Aston Villa to move to the top of the Premier League.

Giroud put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot in the eighth minute at Villa Park after Theo Walcott was pulled back by Alan Hutton inside the box.

Ramsey then slotted home in the 38th minute when Mesut Ozil unselfishly teed him up for a simple finish after being sent clear by Walcott.

Villa improved after the break and went close through Leandro Bacuna, but Arsenal never looked in any real danger of surrendering their advantage as they moved back above Manchester City at the summit, though Leicester City could reclaim top spot if they beat Chelsea on Monday night.

Villa are now eight points adrift of safety, with Remi Garde still looking for his first win as manager. The Midlanders, one of just seven ever-present teams in the Premier League, look all but down even with half the season remaining.

They had not beaten Arsenal at home for exactly 17 years, when they came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 on December 13, 1998.

That 16-match run, which included Arsenal’s 3-0 win last year, rarely looked in doubt once the Gunners grabbed an eighth minute lead.

The returning Walcott, in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, outpaced Hutton on the right and tangled with the Scotland international in the area.

It took an age for referee Kevin Friend to point to the spot, but when he did Giroud sent Brad Guzan the wrong way for his 50th league goal for Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud

Villa’s enthusiastic approach counted for nothing and Rudy Gestede nodded off his own line after Giroud’s header caught Guzan in no man’s land.

Leandro Bacuna ballooned over after Petr Cech flapped at a cross, but Arsenal were comfortable and toyed with their hosts.

It was a training game for the Gunners as they passed in front of Villa and waited for their time to strike again, which came in the 38th minute.

Ramsey’s strong challenge on Idrissa Gana set the visitors up on the counter attack and Walcott fed Mesut Ozil to dummy and race clean through.

He then squared to Wales star Ramsey, who had made up the ground, to tap past the helpless Guzan.

Aaron Ramsey Aaron Ramsey

It was simple but clinical from the Gunners and left Villa floundering, but the hosts at least started the second half with renewed vigour.

Cech claimed Carlos Sanchez’s 30-yard strike and Jordan Veretout shot over before Gestede glanced a header wide.

Scott Sinclair then wasted a golden chance on 57 minutes when he planted an unmarked header over from six yards.

Arsenal had eased off from their first half dominance to give Villa hope and Gana drilled inches over with 19 minutes left.

Jack Grealish – back in the squad after being dropped for two games when he was pictured partying following last month’s 4-0 defeat at Everton – replaced Gana, but Arsenal almost added a third on 82 minutes.

Villa allowed Ozil too much time on the right and when Ramsey held up his cross Oxlade-Chamberlain, on for Walcott, saw his effort saved by Guzan before the keeper claimed Hector Bellerin’s injury-time header.

It was the Gunners’ only serious threat of the half, but the damage had been done early with Arsenal left to ponder their title challenge and Villa left to fret over their top-flight future.

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