Arsenal rue costly loss
Aston Villa celebrate 2-0 victory over Arsenal as Liverpool go three points clear at top.
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2008 05:00 GMT

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young celebrate the goal [AFP]
Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a late goal to seal a 2-0 victory over Arsenal, ending a decade-long drought for Villa against the Gunners and putting the teams level on points in the English Premier League.

It was a huge letdown for Arsenal, who beat Manchester United 2-1 last week and who looked to sustain the momentum to keep pace with league leaders Chelsea and Liverpool.

But now United jump above Arsenal into third place with a game in hand after a 5-0 victory over Stoke.

Arsenal's title hopes appear to be fading quickly as the Gunners are now nine points behind Liverpool, who have 32 points after a 2-0 victory over Bolton.

Elsewhere Tottenham lost to Fulham, Sunderland beat Blackburn, Newcastle and Wigan drew 2-2 and West Ham were held to a nil-all draw with Portsmouth.

Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win at West Brom in the late match.

Arsenal unlucky

Arsenal left back Gael Clichy headed into his own net in the 70th minute to give Villa the lead.

Villa striker Ashley Young bent the ball into the area for Agbonlahor, but Clichy was under pressure and futilely tried to head the ball out.

Agbonlahor then made a strong run in the 80th minute and fired a right-footed shot past Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Young could have given Villa the lead in the first half, but missed a penalty in the 20th.

Aston Villa's last league win against Arsenal came at Villa Park on December 13, 1998 in a match that ended 3-2.

Villa and Arsenal both have 23 points, with the Gunners ahead in fourth place on goal difference.

Gallas battles with Steve Sidwell for the ball [GALLO/GETTY]
Penalty saved

In the 20th minute, Almunia went the right way and saved Young's penalty after Theo Walcott brought down the winger in the penalty area.

Arsenal defender William Gallas hacked the ball clear after Young scrambled to get to the rebound.

Gareth Barry, who is Villa's normal penalty-taker, was injured in the play that led up to the penalty, so Young went up to the spot.

It was a busy first half for Almunia, who started in goal after recovering from a head injury sustained last week in the United match.

He had little time to settle after Young fired a shot straight at the Spaniard after just 17 seconds.

Almunia was also kept busy just after the half-hour mark, as Agbonlahor burst down the left and weaved into the area to the byline before crossing a ball into empty space in front of goal to Barry, who fired straight at the goalkeeper.

A few minutes earlier, Young had made a strong run and fired a shot from about 35 yards that went just left of the goal.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel gets stuck in [GALLO/GETTY]
Strong defending

Arsenal had few chances in the first half because of strong defending by
Villa and the Gunners' midfield play was frequently broken up.

The home side's best first-half chance came in the fifth minute when a Denilson
through ball found Walcott, who made a good run but before sending a pass across goal that could not be met by Nicklas Bendtner.

Cesc Fabregas later curled into the box, but Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel collected the ball easily.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger kept the same side that defeated United,
sticking to a 4-5-1 formation with midfielder Abou Diaby playing behind lone
striker Nicklas Bendtner.

But he gave up on that in the 61st minute and tried to add more pace to the attack by bringing on Emmanuel Adebayor for Diaby, and then Carlos Vela seven minutes later.

Arsenal had a few chances in the second half.

Fabregas' shot in the 84th was saved by Friedel, who also saved a couple of shots from Adebayor.

Arsenal was without Robin van Persie, who served out the second game of a
three-match suspension.

Friedel made his 165th consecutive Premier League appearance and he needs only two more to surpass the total of 166 set by goalkeeper David James for
Manchester City and Portsmouth between January 2004 and April 2008.

Friedel's run began at the start of the 2004-2005 season with Blackburn, which he left at the end of last season to join Villa.

Steven Gerrard scores the second goal past Jussi Jaaskelainen [GALLO/GETTY]
Liverpool 2 Bolton 0

Liverpool took full advantage of an early kickoff at Bolton Wanderers winning 2-0 to go three points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Dirk Kuyt nodded Liverpool in front midway through the first half from a precise Fabio Aurelio cross and Steven Gerrard wrapped up the points after the break with another header.

Liverpool fielded a virtual second-string side when losing at Tottenham in the League Cup on Wednesday but were back at full strength as they outclassed Bolton.

The only surprise was that manager Rafael Benitez left striker Fernando Torres on the bench despite the Spanish hitman being fit again.

Dutchman Kuyt repaid Benitez's decision to start him instead of Torres with a majestic opener after 28 minutes, craning his neck to head in Aurelio's cross after a mesmerising spell of possession football from the visitors.

Robbie Keane should have made it 2-0 before the break but completely missed the ball in front of goal.

Gerrard also wasted a glorious chance in the second half while an improved Bolton should have equalised when Ricardo Gardner stumbled having taken the ball past Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Torres replaced Keane and it was his beautiful cross that allowed Gerrard to glance in Liverpool's second goal with 17 minutes remaining.

"The second goal was crucial and we could have got more, we had two or three very clear chances," said Benitez.

Manchester Utd 5 Stoke City 0

Manchester United moved above Arsenal into third place on 24 points as they thumped Stoke City 5-0 at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo twice on target for the champions.

Dimitar Berbatov made it 3-0 after the break from close range before league debutant Danny Welbeck scored the goal of the game, a swerving shot from 25 metres.

Ronaldo completed the rout with another free kick blast

Sunderland 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

Sunderland moved out of the bottom three with a 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur are back in it after a 2-1 loss at Fulham, manager Harry Redknapp's first defeat in seven matches since taking over last month.

Tottenham's dramatic revival came to a juddering halt after another error by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

The Brazilian made a mess of a shot from former Spurs man Simon Davies in the first half to give Fulham the lead.

Andy Johnson stretched the advantage after the break before Fraizer Campbell pulled one back for the visitors with nine minutes left.

Wigan 2 Newcastle 2

Titus Bramble struck a late equaliser against his old club to give Wigan a deserved point.

The visitors led for the majority of the match after a superb shot from Ryan Taylor but they were put on the back foot when Emmerson Boyce was harshly sent off after halftime.

Substitute Michael Owen wasted a glorious chance for Newcastle before finally equalising 10 minutes from time and Obafemi Martins seemed to have won it for the home side until Bramble's last-gasp header.

Portsmouth earned a 0-0 draw at West Ham United, while two goals from Nicolas Anelka and another from fullback Jose Bosingwa handed Chelsea an easy victory at the Hawthorns to leave West Brom bottom of the league.

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