Cup relief for Arsenal
Villa implode at the Emirates to ease the pressure on Gunners boss
Last Updated: 29/01/12 8:29pm
Arsene Wenger will be an incredibly relieved man after Aston Villa pressed the self-destruct button at Emirates Stadium to give Arsenal a 3-2 win in an absorbing fourth-round FA Cup tie.
With his team trailing to that of Alex McLeish by two goals at half-time in North London, Gunners boss Wenger would not have needed reminding it has been almost seven years since his club last won a trophy.
Richard Dunne and Darren Bent had piled the pressure on the Frenchman, who has been wildly condemned for a failure to act in the transfer window and last weekend was the subject of 'you don't know what you're doing' chants in the league defeat to Manchester United.
But a remarkable turnaround in seven second-half minutes ensured Arsenal remained in the world's oldest domestic knockout competition, which in 2005 provided their most recent piece of silverware.
Villa produced a calamitous, self-inflicted implosion to twice gift Robin van Persie with the chance to score from the penalty spot either side of an appalling passage of defending which saw the ball eventually ricochet into the back of the net off Theo Walcott.
A far from capacity Emirates will know problems, especially in defence, remain for injury-plagued Arsenal, but at least a fifth-round date with either Sunderland or Middlesbrough provides evidence of the strength of character of which Wenger always preaches.
Arsenal - who had lost three successive Premier League games to lose ground on the top four - started quickly.
Thomas Vermaelen lashed a 25-yard strike goalwards after being set up from a free-kick by Van Persie, though Villa goalkeeper Shay Given touched over.
On 13 minutes, Walcott collected Tomas Rosicky's pass and skipped into the Villa box, but could only blast his shot past the near post.
Despite being pegged back, Villa defended resolutely and looked dangerous on the break through Bent and Keane.
Gabriel Agbonlahor broke away for Villa down the near side, but then sent his cross too deep through the Arsenal penalty area.
It was no real surprise when the visitors took the lead on 33 minutes.
A well-worked corner saw Stiliyan Petrov's backheel release Keane, who floated the ball through the Arsenal six-yard box where Dunne got up above a static defence to power in a header.
Arsenal looked for an immediate response, with Given needing two attempts to gather a low shot from Rosicky.
Ramsey ghosted into from the left, and was blocked at the near post by Given.
The Villa stopper then beat away Oxlade-Chamberlain's low, 20-yard strike, before the visitors broke away to make it 2-0 just before half-time.
Stephen Ireland fed Bent and his angled drive was parried away by Lukasz Fabianski, but the England striker was first to the loose ball and slotted it in from the tightest of angles.
Arsenal had regrouped during the interval and were quickly back on the offensive as Per Mertesacker's header from a corner was cleared off the line by Ireland.
Another flowing Arsenal move opened up the Villa defence, but Ramsey stabbed his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The Gunners were awarded a penalty on 54 minutes when Dunne upended Ramsey after he latched onto Alex Song's through-ball.
Van Persie made no mistake from the spot, sending Given the wrong way as he slotted into the bottom-left corner, to give the tie new life.
Within two minutes, Arsenal were level. Walcott darted into the right side of the Villa penalty area and stabbed the ball across the goal-line, where Alan Hutton smashed his clearance back against the England forward and it ricocheted into the net.
The Emirates Stadium faithful, so critical of Wenger in last weekend's 2-1 defeat by United, were now in full voice as the home side continued to sweep forwards.
Laurent Koscielny burst down the left and into the edge of the Villa box, where he was caught from behind by Bent and again referee Mike Jones pointed to the spot.
Van Persie stepped up once more, this time putting the ball into the bottom right corner for goal number 25 of the season to complete the turnaround on the hour.
Villa were left stunned, but to their credit, and roared on by a 5,000-strong travelling contingent, they looked to break quickly through Agbonlahor.
Walcott cut in from the right and Given had to be alert to beat away his angled drive, the rebound falling just behind Van Persie.
Petrov beat the offside trap, but his cutback was booted clear by Mertesacker.Ciaran Clark glanced a header goalwards, which Fabianski held and the Gunners closed out the final 10 minutes to take their place in round five, faith in manager Wenger somewhat restored.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|0||1st Half Goals||2|
|12||Shots on Target||5|
|6||Shots off Target||1|
|68.7||1st Half Poss.||31.3|
|63.8||2nd Half Poss.||36.2|