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Posted February 18, 2023 04:30 PM
Oleksandr Zinchenko said Arsenal had learned an "unbelievable lesson" after his classy strike launched an extraordinary comeback to send the title contenders three points clear at the top of the table with an enthralling 4-2 win at Aston Villa.
Full-back Zinchenko drilled in from long range as Arsenal drew level for a second time on a day when they were desperate not to drop more points, then Jorginho gave the visitors the lead for the first time with a stunning strike in added time that bounced in off Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez before substitute Gabriel Martinelli added a last-gasp tap-in.
Clinical finishes from Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho had threatened to condemn the visitors to a second setback in three days following their defeat at home to Manchester City on Wednesday that handed top spot to the reigning champions.
"We just need to believe until the very end that we can achieve everything," Zinchenko told BT Sport. "This group has such amazing people and we can achieve everything we want. We just need to keep going, keep fighting and believe that we can do this."
Watkins glided past William Saliba and beat Aaron Ramsdale with a low drive for the opening goal after Matty Cash had dispossessed Zinchenko, only for Bukayo Saka to reply 11 minutes later with a splendid first-time half-volley from inside the penalty area.
Coutinho completed a slick Villa move to fire in his first goal of the season shortly after the half-hour mark – much to the likely glee of Manchester City, whose victory against their key title rivals had taken them to the summit on goal difference.
Villa head coach Unai Emery, who led Arsenal during a brief reign between 2018 and 2019, lost his unbeaten record against the Gunners during his managerial career despite a confident display from his side, who had lost 4-2 to Leicester City in their last home outing.
Arsenal had far more possession in dangerous areas but spent much of the game struggling to capitalise on their chances, with England defender Tyrone Mings – who signed a new deal at Villa Park on Friday – diverting a cross against his own crossbar in a vital last-ditch intervention from Ben White's first-half cross.
Eddie Nketiah also hit the crossbar during the second half, looping a header on to the top of the frame of the goal from Ben White's cross before Zinchenko drew his side level, and substitute Leon Bailey smashed a shot against the woodwork via Arsenal goalkeeper Ramsdale's fingertips during the closing stages.
The result meant Villa remained in 11th, three points behind Chelsea and three above Crystal Palace.
Arsenal, who ended a run of four games in all competitions without a win, had played the same number of games as City before the reigning champions' trip to Nottingham Forest later on Saturday.
Gunners grab late win
Arsenal's strong performance in their late 3-1 defeat to City at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday did not exempt them from inevitable questions about how they would respond to losing first place for the first time since August.
A defeat at Manchester United in December had been their only loss before Pep Guardiola's side swept past them, and head coach Mikel Arteta had talked up their resilience and enthusiasm to reclaim supremacy in the table ahead of this game.
Watkins' ruthless strike was a dreadful start that forced them to rally before they had really had time to settle, making the presence of Bukayo Saka vital.
The England livewire cut a frustrated figure for much of the first half, limping after a challenge from Alex Moreno and causing the Villa wideman to yelp in pain when he returned the favour with a robust tackle later in the half.
Arsenal's most frequent source of inspiration was booed by some home fans but scored another terrific goal when he capitalised on a poor headed clearance by Tyrone Mings to fizz a first-time finish past Emi Martinez from inside the penalty area.
Saka was at the centre of a skirmish involving several players after three challenges in succession involving six players before the break, then needed prolonged treatment after having his achilles raked.
Despite the patching-up he might be receiving in a dressing room Zinchenko and Jorginho were eager to celebrate in, Saka now knows that he has 17 direct goal involvements this season, putting him only one behind Tottenham hotshot Harry Kane.
The sole player above Saka and Kane is Erling Haaland, whose 30 involvements attest to his outlandishly productive campaign. Saka's contribution to the ball hitting the opposition net in 15 of his last 20 top-flight games reiterates how important he is to Arteta – and Arsenal fans will be hoping there is little lasting damage from this bruising, victorious encounter.