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Dhaka Tribune

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal's title bid rocked by Aston Villa loss

Arsenal's 1st defeat in 12 league games leaves them in 2nd place, 2 points behind City, while 3rd placed Liverpool are behind Arsenal on goal difference

Update : 15 Apr 2024, 07:01 AM

Arsenal's Premier League title hopes suffered a massive blow as Aston Villa struck twice in the closing stages to boost their top four bid with a dramatic 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium Sunday.

Mikel Arteta's side would have gone back to the top of the table with a victory, but instead they surrendered the initiative to Manchester City after conceding two goals in the last six minutes.

Leon Bailey put the visitors ahead and Ollie Watkins doubled their lead as Villa boss Unai Emery enjoyed a second sweet win this season over the club that sacked him in 2019.

Arsenal's first defeat in 12 league games leaves them in second place, two points behind City, while third placed Liverpool are behind Arsenal on goal difference.

With just six games left, champions City are closing in on an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League crown.

City's rout of Luton Town Saturday had knocked Arsenal out of first place.

But the Gunners should have been on a high after Liverpool suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against Crystal Palace just half an hour before kick-off in north London.

Instead, Arsenal produced a spluttering display that could prove fatal to their challenge for a first English title in 20 years.

It has been a dispiriting week for the Gunners, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals Tuesday, setting up a tricky trip to Germany for the second leg Wednesday.

After blowing an eight-point lead in the title race last season, Arsenal are in danger of squandering the advantage yet again.

Villa had moved up to fourth place without kicking a ball after Tottenham Hotspur's thrashing at Newcastle United Saturday dropped them below Emery's men on goal difference.

And Villa's second win in six league games moved them three points clear of Tottenham, who have a game in hand in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish.

Arsenal had started brightly and Kai Havertz's low drive was palmed away by Emiliano Martinez before Gabriel Jesus headed into the side-netting from Bukayo Saka's cross.

Accelerating onto Martin Odegaard's pin-point pass, Saka took aim from inside the area, but could not test Martinez from an acute angle.

Jubilant Villa

Watkins should have put obdurate Villa ahead when he was allowed to break into the Arsenal area unimpeded for a low strike that cannoned back off the post and ricocheted along the goalline to safety.

Just seconds later, Arsenal were repelled by Martinez's superb reflex save after Leandro Trossard met Jesus's cross with a close-range shot that appeared destined for the net until the Argentine keeper stuck out a foot to block it.

As Arsenal's pressure mounted, Saka curled narrowly past the far post from 12 yards.

But superbly-organised Villa remained resolute, reaching half-time on level terms before Youri Tielemans was inches away from giving them the lead on the hour.

Robbing the careless Zinchenko 20 yards from goal, Tielemans unleashed a blistering shot that hit the bar, then bounced onto the post before cannoning to safety.

Martinez pushed away Jesus's shot from the edge of the area, but Arsenal were labouring to unlock a Villa defence expertly marshalled by Diego Carlos.

The Emirates crowd grew increasingly frustrated as Villa pushed Arsenal back in the closing stages.

And their fears were confirmed in the 84th minute when Emery's men snatched the lead.

Lucas Digne's low cross eluded Arsenal defenders William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, leaving Bailey with the simple task of slotting into the empty net from close-range.

Two minutes and 26 seconds later, Watkins delivered the knockout blow, stealing the ball from Emile Smith-Rowe and clipping a delicate finish past David Raya for his 10th goal in his last 11 league games.

Emery celebrated with a jubilant jig on the touchline, while Arteta stood ashen-faced as Arsenal faced up to a catastrophic loss.

RESULT

Arsenal 0 Villa 2 (Bailey 84, Watkins 87)  

English Premier League table after Sunday's matches
(played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):

Man City                  32 22  7  3 76 32 73

Arsenal                   32 22  5  5 75 26 71

Liverpool                 32 21  8  3 72 31 71

Aston Villa               33 19  6  8 68 49 63

----------------------------------------------

Tottenham                 32 18  6  8 65 49 60

----------------------------------------------

Newcastle                 32 15  5 12 69 52 50

Man Utd                   32 15  5 12 47 48 50

West Ham                  33 13  9 11 52 58 48

Chelsea                   30 12  8 10 55 52 44

Brighton                  32 11 11 10 52 50 44

Wolves                    32 12  7 13 46 51 43

Fulham                    33 12  6 15 49 51 42

Bournemouth               32 11  9 12 47 57 42

Crystal Palace            32  8  9 15 37 54 33

Brentford                 33  8  8 17 47 58 32

Everton                   31  9  8 14 32 42 27 *

Nottm Forest              33  7  9 17 42 58 26 **

----------------------------------------------

Luton                     33  6  7 20 46 70 25

Burnley                   33  4  8 21 33 68 20

Sheff Utd                 32  3  7 22 30 84 16

Notes: Top 4 teams qualify for the Champions League; 5th-placed team enters Europa League. Bottom 3 relegated

* Everton deducted 8 points for breaching profit and sustainability rules

** Forest deducted 4 points for breaching PSR

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