The match may have finished Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal, but once again, the scoreline doesn't tell the entire story. And this one, my Villa friends, is one you'll want to read. Sure, Robin Van Persie may have opened the scoring, and Yossi Beyanoun finished it, but in between there was spirit, fight, and a bunch of other words English announcers love to use when discussing teams. Oh, and a Marc Albrighton goal!
The match started off brightly. In fact, we were all confused as to the way we were feeling. Those emotions...they felt almost like, dare I say it, optimism. Despite Alex McLeish warning that Villa were going to bring a defensive mindset to the match, it was the home side that were pressing forward, threatening the fragile Arsenal defense. Gabby Agbohlahor very nearly scored from a corner within the first five minutes. Then, even more impressively, Arsenal took a corner and Villa didn't concede.
But then disaster struck. Ciaran Clark gave a little shirt tug on Theo Walcott just as he crossed into the area -- to his credit, Walcott didn't go flying, but the ref spotted it anyway and pointed to the spot. Robin Van Persie stepped up and sank a great penalty...and the hearts of Villa fans everywhere.It wasn't as though it was unexpected that Arsenal had gone ahead. It was that Villa had given fifteen minutes of fun football, possibly more than many of us had seen in all other matches combined this season. The goal surely meant it was time to sink back into the Villa defensive shell.
Instead, the claret and blues sprung forward, again and again, cheered on by a Villa Park crowd thrilled to finally find an interest in a match once again. But despite the multitude of chances, the Villa just couldn't get the ball in the net -- it was pushed away by Wojciech Szcesny, or bounced off the edge of Per Mertesaker's gangly frame. Down 1-0 at halftime, but something tells me Alex McLeish did not unleash the fury of a thousand Scots upon his men.
So the Villa came back out and they kept attacking. And things kept feeling weird: the thought that the team would actually equalize. And so it came, and in the best way possible: Albrighton, in front of the Holte End, scoring the 20,000 goal in the Premier League. If anyone deserves his name in the record books, it's our devoted little elf.
Alas, the equalizer could not hold, and once again, Villa were broken down on a set piece, with substitute Benayoun given way too much space by Gabby. Does McLeish only have the defenders practicing set pieces? Is that the problem? Anyway, the goal was the last of the match, completing a 2-1 victory by Arsenal.
In happy news: Alan Hutton was sent off in the last minute of the match with a second yellow, having earned the first by commencing fisticuffs with Yossi Benayoun. Uh, Hutton, I think all Israelis are trained in military tactics. Not the wisest move.
In happier news: This was the best I've seen Villa play in awhile, possibly all season. They were bright, they were quick, they looked like someone had lit a flame under their asses. Charles N'Zogbia looked a man possessed. Agbonlahor looked hell-bent on a goal. Richard Dunne was keeping the ball on the ground. It was some sort of Christmas miracle. Well, I suppose a miracle would've meant all three points, but still. Cross your fingers that this Villa will stick around for a bit.