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Flashback 1992-93: Spot-on Saunders scores winner against Arsenal

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Flashback 1992-93: Spot-on Saunders scores winner against Arsenal continues its look at the week-by-week efforts of Ron Atkinson's exciting Villa side during the memorable 1992-93 season. Each week we will republish the newspaper articles from that exact time during the campaign. We continue with a hard-earned win over Arsenal.

Paper: Birmingham Post
Headline: Saunders pens a Villa success
Author: Andy Colquhoun

Aston Villa prevented their slide from tipping over into a slump with a thrilling victory over Arsenal that must surely signal the revival of Villa's League Championship hopes while finally ending the pre-season favourites' lingering hopes.

In inflicting Arsenal's ninth defeat of the season, Villa moved level on points with second-placed Blackburn Rovers, moving into 1993 on the perfect note.

The effervescent Dwight Yorke gave Dean Saunders a foil while the midfield suddenly grew teeth and the defence, in which Earl Barrett was outstanding, looked rock solid once more.

Villa created numerous chances, particularly in the second half when the Gunners dropped their sweeper in favour of 4-4-2.

But it took a penalty - Villa's first successful conversion from the spot in a remarkable 75 games - to give them an edge they thoroughly deserved but were always anxious they might lose.

Saunders ended his run of eight league games without a goal with a coolly-taken kick after Yorke had been upended by David O'Leary.

Paper: The Daily Telegraph
Headline: Trusted formula fails as O'Leary and Arsenal flop
Author: Colin Gibson

David O'Leary, brought in by Arsenal to bolster their flagging championship challenge, succeeded only in reviving an Aston Villa campaign that had lost its way the previous fortnight.

O'Leary was included in an Arsenal side who, for the first time this season, employed the three-man central defensive formation that had provided them with their first title under George Graham four seasons ago.

After six matches without a victory - a run that had yielded only two points - Mr Graham decided to revert to a tried and trusted formula to try and add further misery to Villa's festive period.

Instead, with referee Martin Bodenham playing first-half injury time, O'Leary until then unflustered, was embarrassed by the pace of Dwight Yorke, recalled in the continued absence of the injured Dalian Atkinson.

O'Leary lunged at the Tobagan, who went spinning through the air with the sort of dramatic fall that might have persuaded other referees that it was a dive.

To the relief of Villa, frustrated by Arsenal's attempts to stifle the game, Mr Bodenham awarded a penalty - Villa's first of the season.

For Dean Saunders it was a chance to rebuild some shattered confidence.

Saunders had scored six goals in his first four matches after his unexpected £2.3m move from Liverpool's mid-season sale but had been without a league goal for almost two months.

David Seaman dived the wrong way and Saunders collected his 12th goal of the season to give Villa the chance to keep pace with Norwich and Manchester United, who had threatened to stretch away from the rest of the Premier League.

Paper: Today
Headline: Gunners slipping out of the race
Author: Rob Shepherd

Aston Villa reasserted their Premier League challenge, as Arsenal's fall from grace as early title favourites continued.

Although it required a Dean Saunders penalty to separate the two sides there was a huge gulf in ambition and quality.

Villa's finishing could have been better but it was still victory and one which lifts them into third place and leaves the Gunners languishing in mid-table.

In the wake of manager Ron Atkinson's fierce criticism of his team's performance at Coventry on Saturday, Villa displayed a determination to reassert their title credentials.

On a bitterly cold night, which created an increasingly treacherous pitch, Villa dominated an Arsenal side in the midst of their worst run in 15 years.

Paper: Daily Mail
Headline: Spot-on Saunders
Author: Neil Harman

Dean Saunders broke his barren spell as Aston Villa's attempt to maintain their title challenge was threatened by treachery underfoot and tenacity at ground level.

Villa's Welsh international scored his first goal in nine Premier League games in the second minute of first-half injury time from the first misplaced tackle of David O'Leary's return for Arsenal.

O'Leary, brought back into a five-man defensive system, was perfectly positioned to cut out the threat from Steve Staunton's throughball but misjudged the timing of his tackle and cut away the legs of Dwight Yorke.

Referee Martin Bodenham had no hesitation in awarding Villa their first penalty of the season and Saunders dispatched the ball clinically from the spot.

After their Boxing Day drubbing at Coventry, the side that Ron Atkinson had sent into Premier League contention required something special to generate another positive step up the table.

They were not helped by the fact that BSkyB wanted this match switched to a Bank Holiday Monday evening when the first frost began to bite into Villa Park's greenery long before the kick-off.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 2nd January 2013
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