LONDON – A “magic moment” was all Arsenal needed on Saturday, and it came from their January signing Jorginho.
Gunners manager Mikel Arteta was delighted with the midfielder and his team’s resilience, as they kept their English Premier League title race alive after an own goal from Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in stoppage time handed them a crucial 4-2 victory.
With just minutes left at Villa Park, Arteta’s side were in danger of stumbling again in their bid to win the title for the first time since 2004.
Arsenal had twice trailed to goals from Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho, only for Bukayo Saka and then Oleksandr Zinchenko to haul them level.
A draw would have taken Arsenal above Manchester City but hardly enhanced their hopes of holding off the champions in a gripping title race.
But they received a helping hand from their former goalkeeper as Martinez inadvertently deflected Jorginho’s long-range belter into his own net after it hit the bar in stoppage time.
Gabriel Martinelli capped Arsenal’s remarkable escape with a goal in the final seconds to lift the north Londoners two points clear of second-placed City, who drew 1-1 at Nottingham Forest in the later match.
“We showed a lot of character and resilience,” said Arteta on BT Sport.
“We have to take some lessons. In the first half we didn’t do the simple things right, but in the second half we dominated.
“We needed a magic moment and Jorginho produced it.
“The boys really wanted it. If you want to be at the top you have to win games in different ways, to do it against this team and in this stadium, I have to give credit to the boys.
“The dressing room is bouncing, I am really pleased with them.”
For the first time since Aug 20, the Gunners were not starting a round of fixtures on top of the Premier League table after losing 3-1 to City on Wednesday.
Arsenal were without a win in their previous three top-flight games and the last four in all competitions, but this spirited victory will give them renewed belief they can pip City to the title.
Tom Hanks, a self-confessed Villa fan, was watching from the stands and Arsenal scripted a Hollywood ending in front of the superstar actor.
Arteta had bemoaned the “very difficult” fixture schedule that saw his side back in action just 63 hours after the final whistle in their home defeat by City.
And his fears about Arsenal struggling to cope with the quick turnaround came true after just five minutes.
Caught with too many players pushed upfield, the Gunners were exposed by Matty Cash’s superb lofted pass towards Watkins, who showed nimble footwork to skip past William Saliba before drilling a fine finish into the bottom corner.
Arsenal hit back with a 16th-minute equaliser when Tyrone Mings could only clear Ben White’s cross as far as Saka and the England forward smashed a ferocious strike past Martinez from 12 metres.
Coutinho then restored Villa’s lead in the 31st minute with a clinical strike from just inside the area.
Zinchenko put Arsenal back on level terms in the 61st minute, drilling a blistering strike past Martinez from the edge of the area for his first Gunners goal since signing from City.
Arsenal then held their nerve and snatched the points in an astonishing finale.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Watkins on Villa’s collapse in the end.
“You have to look back and go over it but, in the moment, you don’t know what happened.
“A good team punished us, I don’t know what went wrong, it was 2-2 with five minutes to go, we should see the game out, I don’t think they should score two goals.
“Jorginho’s goal was lucky, but they had a lot of the ball and kept putting pressure on us. It’s disappointing at the end of the day, it’s fine margins.” AFP