Poor finishing leaves Gunners frustrated

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Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal reacts after missing a scoring opportunity against Aston Villa. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

London – Arsenal were left to rue poor finishing after their Premier League encounter with Aston Villa ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger's side created plenty of chances at Villa Park but were unable to strike the decisive blow, with Wales international Aaron Ramsey particularly guilty of wastefulness in front of goal.

Villa substitute Brett Holman went closest for the home side with a shot that rattled the crossbar from distance, but the point was still enough for Paul Lambert's side to climb out of the relegation zone.

Arsenal, meanwhile, remain sixth, a point below fifth-place Everton and four points outside the Champions League qualifying places.

The visitors made three changes from their mid-week game against Montpellier as Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna were dropped to the bench in favour of Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Ramsey.

Aston Villa coach Lambert made one change from the side that lost 5-0 to Manchester City last weekend, with Karim El Ahmadi replacing Stephen Ireland in midfield.

Villa carved out an opportunity in the 13th minute when Ashley Westwood's cross-field pass picked out Andreas Weimann and the Austria international saw his shot from a tight angle beaten away at the near post by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Moments later, Villa forward Christian Benteke laid the ball into Barry Bannan but his ambitious 30-yard shot was comfortably gathered by Szczesny.

Arsenal started to find their rhythm as the first half wore on and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain threatened when he cut in from the right flank in the 21st minute, only to drag his shot wide.

The Gunners opened up the home side's defence again seven minutes later and Ramsey's low angled shot through a crowd of bodies forced Brad Guzan to make a smart diving save in the Villa goal.

Villa had the ball in the net in the 28th minute when a Bannan free-kick caused a scramble inside the penalty area and Weimann squeezed the ball home, but the assistant referee had already raised his flag for offside.

Arsenal missed a golden chance to break the deadlock shortly before half-time when Laurent Koscielny lifted a shot over the crossbar from close range after he had been picked out by Olivier Giroud.

The visitors began the second half brightly and the lively Santi Cazorla curled a shot round the post just after the break following a swift counter-attack.

Villa were dealt a blow in the 50th minute when captain Ron Vlaar limped out through injury and was replaced by Eric Lichaj, with Matthew Lowton shifting to centre-back.

Ramsey failed to capitalise on a teasing cross into the six-yard area from Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 55th minute and then lifted a shot over the bar from close range seven minutes later when the ball fell to him from a corner.

Gabriel Agbonlahor teed up substitute Holman in a Villa counter-attack shortly afterwards but his low, stinging shot from 12 yards was saved by Szczesny.

The Polish goalkeeper then produced a stunning full-stretch save to touch Holman's brilliant long-range effort onto the bar.

Ciaran Clark's last-ditch interception denied Gervinho at the back post as the Arsenal forward attempted to get on the end of a cross from fellow substitute Andrey Arshavin late on, but Villa held on to claim a point. – Sapa-AFP


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