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A memorable Aston Villa-Arsenal match from recent memory

Looking back at Boxing Day 2008.

Michael Regan

This weekend, Aston Villa take on Arsenal. The two teams have played some fairly memorable matches in the last couple years and in this week's Holte History, lets take a look at one from 2008.

Having beaten Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium earlier in the year, Aston Villa played hosts to the London club on Boxing Day 2008. In that first meeting, a 70th minute own goal and a 80th minute goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor put a huge dent on Arsenal's title hopes, while cementing Aston Villa's challenge on a Champion's League spot.

Villa had another chance to make big inroads in the Champion's League race on that Boxing Day. Their lineup on the day was oh so very 2008 Villa. It included the likes of Steve Sidwell, Nigel Reo-Coker, Curtis Davies, Luke Young and Zat Knight. (Along with the 2008 staples of Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, Gareth Barry, Brad Friedel, James Milner and Stiliyan Petrov.)

Despite hitting the post a couple times early, Villa went into halftime down a goal when Denilson scored in the 40th minute. And soon after halftime, Villa were down two goals when Abou Diaby doubled Arsenal's lead.

Villa would break through in the 65th minute. Milner played in a ball towards Gabby. Agbonlahor used his speed to beat out William Gallas who took down Gabby from behind. The ref made the easy decision to point to the spot. As he tended to do in 2008, Gareth Barry scored the penalty without much trouble and Villa now had over 25 minutes to find another.

As was not unexpected given the personnel, Villa mostly tried to use their pace to get an equalizing goal. But said goal would come from a giant person in the weirdest way. With the match now in stoppage time, Petrov sent in a cross to the box. It bounced around before landing at the feet of Zat Knight. The 6'6" and not particularly good defender finished it like a striker and Villa had an improbable goal. That sealed a draw and kept Villa right in the running for a Champion's League spot.

As you may know, Villa did not make the Champion's League in 2009. They finished in sixth place. Zat Knight would leave for Bolton that summer and with the exception of Petrov, all of that starting eleven would be gone by 2011. That team didn't quite get to the heights it might've been able to, but it did have some fun matches.