Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2: Adebayor rises to occasion as Gunners go five clear at top

Striker's superb header sees off battling Villa and gives Arsenal handy lead in title race

There is hope for English football if not the national team. "Have you ever seen England play like this?" Arsenal supporters sang as their team produced a majestic first 45 minutes of passing and movement, even allowing Aston Villa the first goal before easing their way into the lead. With Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie both missing, it was the most emphatic reaction to the midweek defeat in Seville that ended a club record of 28 unbeaten matches.

But there is more to football than sweet passing and in the second half Martin O'Neill's motivational powers were evident as the home side, feeding Ashley Young on the left at every opportunity, tested Arsenal's resolution. The crossbar was eventually required to help Arsne Wenger's side extend their lead at the top of the table, which could be further increased whatever Manchester United do tomorrow, when they finally play their game in hand away to Newcastle on Wednesday.

As ever, Wenger had the words for it: "Brilliant and resilient," he said. "We saw the two sides of us today. In the first half we played absolutely amazing football. No one can live with us when we play like that."

The home side's run of four successive victories had propelled them into sixth place prior to kick-off, their highest placing of the season. Outplayed at home by Liverpool and Manchester United but winners over Chelsea, they welcomed the last of the big four to Villa Park without the suspended Nigel Reo-Coker and with a certain trepidation, which proved well founded. Reo-Coker's replacement Stiliyan Petrov would last only half an hour and in that time his difficulty was an obligation to keep an eye on the outstanding Alexander Hleb, who had a floating role on his return to the side, just behind the one Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor. That tended to leave Villa outnumbered in a crucial area.

Scott Carson, slowly rehabilitating after his Wembley nightmare, had to make an early save from Adebayor, and neither Petrov nor any of the back four were close enough to Hleb when Mathieu Flamini's pass played him through the middle, the goalkeeper saving resourcefully with his feet.

It was a surprise when Villa suddenly managed a bad miss and a goal in the space of two minutes, both by the same player. Craig Gardner was initially the Villain turned villain, miscuing horribly as Kolo Tour cleared straight to him. In the next attack, Young sent John Carew away down the left for a deflected cross that fell perfectly for Gardner to sweep in.

The visitors' silky smooth passing soon brought them back into the game and then into the lead. Midway through the half, Emmanuel Ebou played a one-two with Adebayor on the right and crossed from the byline for Flamini to drive in a strong shot from 18 yards. The goalscorer hit two more fierce efforts before Adebayor leapt above two defenders to head in Bacary Sagna's cross at the culmination of another sparkling move.

The only danger after such an apparently effortless recovery was that a casual air would creep in, though Wenger preferred to praise Villa's commitment. Manuel Almunia came under some pressure and just after the hour Carew headed one of Young's inswinging centres against the crossbar. Less admirable was Carew's lunge from behind at Hleb that caused the Belarussian, who had rivalled Flamini as the game's outstanding performer, to be replaced by Theo Walcott. Most of Villa's challenges were more legitimate and as they thudded into them all over the pitch a genuine contest had broken out again.

Arsenal's next substitution was a more defensive one, Tomas Rosicky making way for Gilberto Silva to shore up the central area. But Carew's back-header over the bar was as close as Villa came to completing a fightback that had seemed inconceivable at half-time.

News
Fatale attraction: Brigitte Bardot in her youth
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?