Awesome Agbonlahor

By Tom Vickers
Last updated : 16 November 2008
By Eoin Manning

Gabby Agbonlahor smashed Arsenal's title hopes at the Emirates and was then rewarded with a place in Fabio Capello's England squad for Wednesday's encounter with Germany.

The 22 year old striker has been named alongside Villa team mates Curtis Davies, Gareth Barry and Ashley Young.

Agbonlahor struck with 10 minutes left at the Emirates to seal a richly deserved victory for Villa after Gael Clichy's own goal had given the away side the lead midway through the second half.

The Claret and Blue had a glut of chances throughout the game and even conspired to miss a penalty as Young saw his kick saved by Manuel Almunia.

But in the end, they made their opponents pay for a below par performance as Agbonlahor gave a masterclass in playing the lone striker role.

Having lost to Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the last two league outings and after seeing Arsenal's wonderful display against Manchester United last weekend, Villa fans could not have been blamed for fearing the worst before kick off.

Those fears would only have been amplified by the news that target man and attacking focal point John Carew was only fit enough to be named on the substitutes bench.

O'Neill gleefully welcomed Stiliyan Petrov back into the heart of the Villa midfield at the expense of Nigel Reo Coker who dropped to the bench.

Steve Sidwell retained his place in the team in spite of his mistake against Middlesbrough.

The same chance was not afforded to his former Reading team mate Nicky Shorey as Luke Young replaced him at left back.

Pace

Young set the tone for his and Villa's afternoon in the opening seconds with a positive run and shot on goal, which was to be the first umpteen efforts from the brilliant winger.

However, both Brad Friedel and Davies needed to be on their toes to deny Cesc Fabregas in Arsenal's first meaningful attack on 15.

It seemed Villa's excellent opening was to be rewarded with a goal when in the 20th minute they were awarded a penalty for Walcott's rash tackle on Young.

With normal penalty taker Barry receiving treatment after a heavy challenge from Fabregas the responsibility was passed on to Young.

But his weak penalty lacked the kind of conviction which Barry's penalties normally exude and Manuel Almunia saved low to his right.

Lesser teams may have crumbled thinking their chance had gone but Villa continued to threaten with the pace of Young and Agbonlahor.

If Sidwell should have done better when played in by Young towards the end of the half, Barry should definitely have scored after being presented with an excellent opportunity via Agbonlahor's pace and vision.

However, he could only shoot straight at Almunia from the striker's cut back.

The teams went in scoreless at half time and Villa boss O'Neill must have been wondering if his side had blown their opportunity.

Panache

Gunner's boss Arsene Wenger must have scarcely believed he was watching the same players who excelled against United just seven days ago.

Arsenal have shown a weaknesses in recent seasons that didn't appear to be there before.

Everyone realises that if you take Arsenal on at their own game they will beat you. so some teams choose to play a direct long ball game, others opt for an overtly physical approach.

On this day Villa just simply ran them ragged with style and panache.

After the restart it was again Villa who did all the pressing and Wenger decided it was time to strengthen his attacking options introducing the fit again Emmanuel Adebayor in place of Abou Diaby on 61. He then brought on youngster Carlos Vela for Nicklas Bendtner seven minutes later.

Yet it only served to spark Villa into life once more as tormentor-in-chief Young crossed for Agbonlahor. Under pressure from the striker defender Gael Clichy headed into his own net to send the away support absolutely delirious. In truth it was the least Villa deserved.

Villa were upstaging their illustrious opponents as Agbonlahor showed again just how much he has improved this season. Latching on to a hopeful clearance by Martin Laursen he was just too quick and too strong for Gallas as he left the Frenchman floundering and beat keeper Almunia with a low drive.

Arsenal continued to apply the pressure but Villa's rear guard stood firm and O' Neill was understandably overjoyed with the result

Next up is Manchester United. We couldn't beat them as well, could we? With Agbonlahor and Young in such scintillating form anything seems possible.

Man Of The Match: Ashley Young, Penalty fluff aside he was absolutely outstanding.

Aston Villa Match Reports

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