Arsenal beat Villa to get on top

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Arsenal's two-nil win over Aston Villa on Sunday lifts them to the top of the English Premiership.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:05 IST
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Arsenal had the chance to go two points clear at the top of the English Premiership on Sunday with victory over Aston Villa. Arsene Wenger's team, keen to take advantage of Manchester United's slip-up at Wolves the day before, were swiftly into their stride. Robert Pires' dipping volley on 13 minutes forced Thomas Sorensen to scramble. In a frantic start, Thierry Henry was personally welcomed to Villa Park by J Lloyd Samuel - the defender leaving Henry with a bloody lip after this accidental clash. With Arsenal dominating possession, Villa's attacks were sporadic, but in a rare opening, Marcus Allback should have opened the scoring seven minutes later. All Juan Pablo Angel's good work on the right wing, however, counted for nothing as the Swede pushed his shot agonisingly wide. Controversial strike Arsenal's 'lippy' French star then turned cheeky - almost too quick for the TV cameras, and certainly too quick for a napping Villa defence, Henry curled in a free quick while Sorensen was still lining up his wall. Despite the home team's vociferous protests, referee Mark Halsey allowed the goal - Henry's 14th in the Premiership and 19th of the season. Arsenal 1-0 up at the break. The home team briefly threatened to crawl their way back - but even Juan Pablo Angel, enjoying a revival of his Villa Park career, could not breach the Arsenal. And then the sucker punch. Pires found Kanu on the edge of the box, and the gangly Nigerian striker pushed the ball past Villa defender Olaf Mellberg before colliding with the Swede. On the evidence perhaps an indirect free kick at worst, but Halsey reinforced his status as Villa Park public enemy number one by awarding a spot kick. Henry stepped up to take full advantage, his 20th goal of the season lifting Arsenal to the top of the Premiership, two points clear of Manchester United. (AP)

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