Bent brace helps Villa down Arsenal

Arsenal were jeered off the pitch at the end of their final home game of the season after Darren Bent's double earned a 2-1 victory for Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Updated: May 16, 2011 00:14 IST
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London: Arsenal were jeered off the pitch at the end of their final home game of the season after Darren Bent's double earned a 2-1 victory for Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Many fans had left well before the final whistle when the boos started, then some who stayed made their feelings clear during what should have been a lap of appreciation from Arsene Wenger's team.

The Gunners had pulled a goal back through Robin van Persie but defeat opens the door for Manchester City to finish above them, with fourth place bringing with it a tricky Champions League qualifier in pre-season, and the home supporters were far from happy with the latest defeat in a miserable second half of the campaign.

The hosts were dealt a blow before kick-off when Cesc Fabregas, their skipper, was ruled out with a thigh injury and France midfielder Samir Nasri was also sidelined as he had not recovered from a hamstring complaint.

Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen did make his first appearance since September following an Achilles injury but his presence in the Arsenal defence hardly stabilised them as Villa, now completely safe from relegation danger, raced into an early lead.

The opening goal came after 11 minutes from a ball over the top of the defence by England full-back Kyle Walker, with Bent peeling away from Sebastien Squillaci.

Bent still had work to do but he executed his finish by controlling the ball on the chest and steering a volley beyond Wojciech Szczesny and into the top corner.

It got worse for Arsenal four minutes later when Bent doubled the lead for his ninth goal since arriving at Villa from Sunderland during the January transfer window.

James Collins played a free-kick forward and Vermaelen slipped to allow Ashley Young time to threat his pass through the Arsenal defence. Bent had raced in front of Bacary Sagna and finished through Szczesny's legs.

Arsenal would inevitably see more of the ball as they looked for a goal to get back in the game.

Villa tried to close them down quickly and it led to Nigel Reo-Coker getting booked when he was late on Jack Wilshere.

The hosts felt they should have had a penalty when Aaron Ramsey was played through by Wilshere. The Wales midfielder just had goalkeeper Brad Friedel to beat but Richard Dunne raced back and put his opponent off his stride while also missing the ball.

Ramsey protested but referee Michael Oliver waving play on. Arsenal's frustrations grew shortly after the penalty appeal when Van Persie hit the frame of the goal.

The Holland striker, captain for the day in Fabregas's absence, received Wilshere's pass and tricked his way around Collins before beating Friedel with his finish but the ball hit the post.

Wenger's team were jeered off at the break and the Arsenal manager took drastic action in an attempt to change the game.

With France manager Laurent Blanc watching in the stands, Squillaci was taken off at the break, with striker Marouane Chamakh coming on in his place.

With Alex Song dropping to centre-back, Villa had a chance with less than a minute of the second half gone when Bent got behind the Arsenal defence again, but Szczesny was down to save.

Andrey Arshavin fired a shot straight at Friedel, the veteran goalkeeper also saved bravely when Kieran Gibbs was sent through, while Van Persie fired over from the edge of the area.

Chamakh had a goal ruled out for a push on Walker, before Van Persie finished from close range in the 89th minute.

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