Aston Villa pay the penalty as van Persie inspires Arsenal comeback

FA Cup fourth round: Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

Robin van Persie made Aston Villa pay the penalty as the Gunners came back from two goals down to beat the Villans.

Richard Dunne had given Aston Villa the opener after 33 minutes although the Gunners had enjoyed the bulk of the pressure but failed to make it count.

Darren Bent then doubled the Villans’ lead in first-half stoppage time to send the Gunners off with boos ringing in their ears at half-time.

Whatever Arsene Wenger said to his players at half-time clearly worked as, 16 minutes after the restart, they were ahead.

Van Persie scored a penalty after Dunne brought down Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott was in the right place at the right time to let Alan Hutton’s clearance rebound off him to level the scores.

The Dutchman then scored his second penalty as Arsenal scored three goals in the space of seven second-half minutes to settle the tie.

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Arsenal started brightly and Thomas Vermaelan had the first opportunity of the game after five minutes from a free-kick, which Shay Given acrobatically tipped over.

Walcott then burst through the Aston Villa defence, as they tried to claim offside, but fired his shot wide.

Walcott broke down the right again but van Persie was unable to get his head to the ball before Stephen Warnock tripped Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the area.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then caused problems down the left but he fired his shot wide.

Aston Villa made Arsenal pay for their missed chances when Robbie Kean’s cross was met by Dunne, who rose through a crowd of players losing Laurent Koscielny in the process, to head home the opener on 33 minutes, sending the 5,000 travelling Villa fans into ecstasy.

The Gunners nearly hit back immediately with Tomas Rosicky’s long range shot being gathered by Given at the second attempt.

Oxlade-Chamberlain then forced Given into a fantastic save just before half-time when he shot from long-range through a crowd of players but the Villans’ keeper kept him at bay.

Almost immediately the visitors went down the other end and Bent had his shot parried by Lukasz Fabianski but the England striker tucked home the rebound from a narrow angle to stun the Gunners just before the interval.

Within two minutes of the restart Arsenal nearly pulled one back when Robin van Persie’s corner was headed towards goal by Per Mertesacker, but Stephen Ireland cleared the ball off the line.

The Gunners were handed a lifeline when Dunne, who had already been booked, brought down Ramsey in the box when through on goal, but narrowly escaped a second yellow.

Van Persie stepped up and sent Given the wrong way from the resulting penalty.

Arsenal then were level when Walcott broke down the right and put a cross in on goal. Alan Hutton tried to clear but the ball rebounded off the England international and into the net.

Just after the hour mark the Gunners led as Darren Bent was adjudged to have brought down Koscielny and van Persie again fired past Given.

Walcott teed up van Persie with under 20 minutes to go but his shot went over the bar.

Ciaran Clark had a chance to level the scores with just over 10 minutes to go but Fabianski was equal to his effort.

There was still time for Bacary Sagna to make his return from a broken leg, replacing Walcott and Thierry Henry came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Gunners legend did get a chance but was unable to get his shot away but it did not matter as Villa were unable to conjure an equaliser.

Arsenal’s reward is a trip to the north east, to play either Sunderland or Middlesbrough, who drew 1-1 earlier today.

Arsenal: Fabianski, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Song, Ramsey, Rosicky (Arteta 72), Walcott (Sagna 89), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Henry 89), Van Persie.

Substitutes: Szczesny, Benayoun, Arshavin, Park.

Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock, Ireland, Petrov (Bannan 82), Clark, Agbonlahor (Gardner 72), Keane, Bent

Substitutes: Lichaj, Weimann, Guzan, Baker, Heskey.

Attendance: 60,019