Two goals in injury-time gave us a superb comeback victory in an all-action encounter at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon.
Ollie Watkins had put the hosts ahead early on before Bukayo Saka pulled us level with a screamer. Philippe Coutinho restored Aston Villa's lead before the break, but we came roaring back after half-time.
Alex Zinchenko drew us level with his first Arsenal goal - but it looked as though we would have to settle for single point before the late, late drama.
An own goal from former Gunner Emi Martinez – when Jorginho’s shot hit the bar and bounced in off the keeper’s head – put us ahead and Gabriel Martinelli sealed the win late on, walking the ball in after Martinez had gone forward for a late Villa corner.
It was the perfect tonic after one point from our last three games, and put us back on top of the table.
We got off to the worst possible start. With just six minutes on the clock, we lost the ball in midfield and Villa sprung a counter-attack.
However there didn’t seem to be too much danger as Watkins advanced into the box, marshalled by William Saliba. But the in-form striker rifled the ball home with a left-footed shot which flew beyond Aaron Ramsdale.
We responded well, pushing forward and putting pressure on the Villa penalty area.
Ben White clipped a ball over Martinez and into the path of Eddie Nketiah, but Tyrone Mings cleared from under the bar as our striker dived in. White was subsequently flagged just offside.
A wonderful finish from Saka brought us level. White’s cross from the right was only half cleared, and Saka smashed the bouncing ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards. Martinez was rooted to the spot as the ball flashed past him.
It was the winger’s 10th goal of an excellent season so far.
The game remained open, with both defences offering chances, but it was Villa who retook the lead with a well-worked second. Again though they were given too much time on the ball. Alex Moreno got behind White, and his cut-back from the left was dummied by Emiliano Buendia, allowing Coutinho to wrong-foot Ramsdale with a low finish.
We struggled to regain our flow after falling behind again. Saka looked dangerous whenever he picked up possession on the right wing but we were unable to really test Martinez.
Zinchenko breaks his duck
Mikel Arteta sent his players back to the field early after the interval, and we looked to dictate the play at the start of the second half. Granit Xhaka had a shot blocked on the edge of the area before Saka then dragged a low shot wide.
Nketiah headed against the bar after leaping well to meet White’s cross but soon our persistence paid off.
From a short corner, Martin Odegaard rolled the ball back to Zinchenko just outside the box. The Ukrainian lined up his first-time shot and squeezed it inside the post.
It was the left back’s first goal for us – indeed his first ever in the Premier League – but there was no time to celebrate. Instead he wanted to get on with things and go for the third goal.
Nketiah came close to getting it. He latched onto a searching Odegaard pass through the middle, rounded the defender but lifted the ball over the bar.
Martinelli was introduced into the action as we went for the kill. He made a great run into the area from the halfway line, but his pass was just too strong for Nketiah, who had momentarily checked his run.
Chances were beginning to come and go for both sides. John McGinn shot straight at Ramsdale as Villa served a warning that they were still a threat going forward.
Odegaard, who had really come to the fore in the second half, then had a huge chance to put us ahead.
Nketia won the ball in the box and rolled it perfectly onto the skipper’s left foot, near the penalty spot. But his low shot went just the wrong side of the upright.
The game was being played at a frantic pace, and Leon Bailey smashed a fierce shot against the bar from a narrow angle. Replays showed Ramsdale made a superb save to push it onto the woodwork.
Then the late drama. Jorginho’s shot from 20 yards rattled the frame of the goal, bounced down, and in off the back of Martinez’s head. Cue delirium in the away end.
The win was sealed at the death. Martinez went forward as Villa won a late corner. But we cleared to Fabio Vieira who released Martinelli to walk it home.
A deserved and dramatic late turnaround to put us three points clear at the top.
What it means
Facts and stats
Aston Villa have lost each of their last four Premier League games against us, only against Manchester United (37) and Liverpool (32) do they have more defeats in the competition.
Today was our 14th Premier League away win against Aston Villa, our joint-most such victories against a side in the competition (also 14 against West Ham).
We have now conceded the opening goal in four of our last five Premier League games, one more than we did in our first 18 games.
Ollie Watkins has scored in each of his last four Premier League games for Aston Villa – it’s his longest such run in the top four tiers of English football.
Philippe Coutinho has now scored five Premier League goals against us, against no other opponent does he have more (also 5 against Manchester City and Southampton).
Only Erling Haaland (30) and Harry Kane (18) have been involved in more Premier League goals this season than Bukayo Saka (17 – 9 goals, 8 assists), while it’s the second successive season he’s reached double figures for goals in all competitions (10), netting 12 in 2021/22.
Oleksandr Zinchenko scored his first Premier League goal in what was his 92nd appearance in the competition. Indeed, he’s our 13th different scorer in the league this season (ex. own goals), the outright most.
We scored a 90th minute winner away from home in the Premier League for the first time since Gabriel Martinelli netted against Crystal Palace in May 2021, which was also the last time we scored twice in the 90th minute in the same game in the competition.
We’re back up in the midlands next Saturday, to take on Leicester City in the Premier League, and then host Everton the following Wednesday.
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