Arsenal win at Aston Villa to go top of the Premier League

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (centre) celebrates scoring his side's second goal at Aston Villa with team-m

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (centre) celebrates scoring his side's second goal at Aston Villa with team-mates Mesut Ozil (left) and Olivier Giroud (right) - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 2

First-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey lifted Arsenal to the top of the Premier League with victory at rock-bottom Villa.

Giroud netted an early penalty – his fifth goal in three games – before Ramsey added the second to ensure that the Gunners returned to the summit, at least until Leicester face Chelsea on Monday night.

Arsenal snatched the lead through an eighth-minute counter-attack, with Theo Walcott racing onto a Mathieu Flamini pass and into the box, where he was wrestled to the ground by Alan Hutton.

Referee Kevin Friend inexplicably took his time before pointing to the spot – but the decision went in the Gunners’ favour and Giroud gratefully stepped up to send Brad Guzan the wrong way.

With Villa heads dropping, Giroud almost made it 2-0 as he stole in to beat Guzan to Mesut Ozil’s free-kick, but his header was cleared off the line by Rudy Gestede.

Dominating possession, Arsenal reverted to their familiar trait of trying to walk the ball into the net – and, with eight minutes remaining in the first half, they just about managed it.

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The referee ignored an apparent foul by Ramsey on Idrissa Gueye and allowed the Gunners to break, with Walcott sliding a superb ball through for Ozil, who squared for the Welshman to tuck it home.

Villa offered little in response, although Leandro Bacuna volleyed over after Petr Cech pawed out a cross and Hutton headed a chance wide just before half-time.

But the momentum shifted after the restart, with Remi Garde’s side belatedly putting the visitors under pressure and creating a flurry of chances.

Carlos Sanchez, Carles Gil and Bacuna all tested Cech from distance, while Scott Sinclair got between the Arsenal centre-backs to meet Hutton’s cross with a header that sailed onto the roof of the net.

However, the goal Villa desperately craved failed to materialise and the Gunners shuffled their pack, bringing both Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the fray.

There were opportunities for both the new arrivals to increase Arsenal’s lead, with Oxlade-Chamberlain forcing a fine save from Guzan at his near post.

Villa substitute Adama gave Arsenal a late scare, motoring through from the halfway line before striking the side netting, but the visitors saw the game out successfully to move above Manchester City and Leicester into first place.

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Monreal; Ramsey, Flamini; Campbell (Gibbs 64), Ozil (Chambers 85), Walcott (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64); Giroud

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