Villa hold Gunners to a draw
Updated: Saturday, 24 Nov 2012 19:07
Aston Villa climbed out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three with a deserved share of the spoils against Arsene Wenger's side at Villa Park.
But a single point did little to bolster Arsenal's hopes of re-igniting their hopes of a top-four finish in a game of few clear-cut chances.
It needed a fine save from Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny to deny Villa substitute Brett Holman a late winner.
Home boss Paul Lambert was forced to watch the game from the stands after his one match ban but would have taken great heart from the way his side performed against the Gunners.
Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark had a fine game in limiting the threat of the in-form Lukas Podolski and securing his side's third clean sheet of the season.
Up front Christian Benteke posed problems for the Arsenal back four against the team he supported as a youngster.
The Gunners have now taken only one point from their past three away games and would have fancied their chances of winning at a ground where they have been unbeaten since 1998.
But they looked like unlocking Villa only spasmodically despite the runs forward of midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
There was a quiet start to the game although Arsenal enjoyed most of the early possession.
Villa skipper Ron Vlaar made an important last-ditch tackle to halt a powerful surge forward by Gunners full-back Kieran Gibbs.
Szczesny came out of his area to clear a Barry Bannan through-ball aimed at the run of Benteke.
The Arsenal keeper then made the first save of the game in turning aside a shot from a narrow angle by Andreas Weimann.
Szczesny dealt more comfortably with a long-range attempt from Bannan and Benteke headed wide from an Ashley Westwood corner.
Villa midfielder Karim El Ahmadi became the first player to be booked for diving by referee Lee Mason.
Home keeper Brad Guzan made his first meaningful save after 29 minutes and the United States international reacted sharply to keep out a deflected shot from Ramsey.
Szczesny was fortunate to escape without even a yellow card when he caught the ball but then slid out of the box under pressure from Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Weimann had the ball in the net after Clark's shot from the resulting free-kick by Bannan dropped into his path but he had strayed offside.
Per Mertesacker produced a fine tackle to halt Agbonlahor's run as over optimistic Villa fans appealed for a penalty.
Laurent Koscielny missed the best chance of the first half after 43 minutes.
Olivier Giroud supplied the low cross and Koscielny found himself unmarked after a slip by Clark but he miscued his shot over the bar.
Villa were forced to make a change after 51 minutes when Vlaar limped out of the action to be replaced by Eric Lichaj.
He slotted in at right-back with Matt Lowton switching to the centre of the back four.
Ramsey shot wide at the near post from a low Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross and volleyed over from a deep Santi Cazorla corner.
But Villa were still posing a threat to their opponents and Benteke had a header deflected past the post from Bannan's corner.
Szczesny got his body behind a low attempt from Agbonlahor after being teed up by substitute Holman.
Ramsey was only just wide with a low skimming shot.
Szczesny came to Arsenal's rescue when he finger-tipped a fierce Holman effort onto the bar with 12 minutes remaining.