5:06pm Saturday 24th March 2012
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Arsenal strengthened their grip on third place in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners made it seven straight league wins with goals from Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta.
There was an early stoppage when Johan Djourou went down following a stray elbow from former England striker Emile Heskey.
Marc Albrighton charged down the right and into the Arsenal penalty area, only to stumble and fire the ball over the bar. Walcott's shot was blocked before right-back Bacary Sagna blasted the loose ball wide.
The Gunners took the lead through an unlikely source after 16 minutes. Gervinho fed Gibbs into the left side of the Villa box, and the defender's low, angled drive squirmed under Shay Given's arm.
After 25 minutes Walcott dispatched a magnificent effort to double Arsenal's lead. Alex Song's chipped pass into the Villa box was taken in his stride on the run by the England winger, whose next touch was to calmly stroke the ball into the bottom corner.
Arteta's fierce drive from 20 yards was tipped over by Given. Stephen Warnock denied Gunners skipper Robin van Persie with a desperate flying header on the line.
Arsenal were awarded a free-kick yards out after substitute Gary Gardner tugged back Tomas Rosicky. Arteta struck his effort into the wall.
A thrown by Wojciech Szczesny sent Rosicky away, who fed Gervinho down the left, but his cutback flew across the area. Rosicky was central to the action now, with Given beating away his 25-yard drive.
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scampered away down the right and went down under a sliding challenge from Stephen Ireland, but referee Phil Dowd correctly ruled the midfielder had just got the ball first. Arteta cracked home a 25-yard free-kick to round off the scoring.
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