- Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) - Arsenal moved top of the Premier League - for a day at least - with a 2-0 win Sunday over an Aston Villa side that is six points adrift at the bottom.

Olivier Giroud converted what appeared to be a harshly awarded penalty at Villa Park in the eighth minute for his 50th league goal for the north London side.

Aaron Ramsey made it 2-0 for the visitors after overwhelming Villa with a fast breakaway attack from its own half. Ozil generously set up Ramsey who swept the ball into the net in the 38th.

Arsenal has 33 points, one more than Manchester City and Leicester, which can reclaim the lead by beating Chelsea on Monday.

Villa is eight points from safety having not won for a club-record 15 games since the opening day of the season.



Villa, one of just seven ever-present teams in the post-1992 Premier League era, looks all but down even with half the season remaining.

Villa had not beaten Arsenal at home for exactly 17 years, when the team came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 on Dec. 13, 1998.

A repeat didn’t seem likely after conceding so early.

The returning Theo Walcott, in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, outpaced Alan Hutton on the right and tangled with the Scotland international in the area. There was a delay before referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot setting the stage for Giroud to send Brad Guzan the wrong way.

Villa’s enthusiastic approach counted for nothing and Rudy Gestede nodded off his own line after Giroud’s header caught Guzan in no man’s land.

Leandro Bacuna ballooned over after goalkeeper Petr Cech flapped at a cross but Arsenal was comfortable and mostly toyed with its hosts.

It seemed almost like a training game for the Gunners as they passed in front of Villa and took their time to strike again before half time.

Ramsey’s strong challenge on Idrissa Gana set the visitors up on the counter attack and Walcott fed Ozil to dummy and race clean through. He then squared to Ramsey, who had made up the ground, to tap past the helpless Guzan.

It was simple but clinical from Arsenal and left Villa floundering though the hosts at least started the second half with renewed vigor.

Cech claimed Carlos Sanchez’s 30-yard strike and Jordan Veretout shot over before Gestede glanced a header wide.

Scott Sinclair then wasted a golden chance in the 57th when he planted an unmarked header over from six yards.

Arsenal had eased off from its first half dominance to give Villa hope and Gana drilled inches over with 20 minutes left.

Jack Grealish - back in Villa’s squad after being dropped for two games when he was pictured partying following last month’s 4-0 defeat at Everton - replaced Gana but Arsenal almost added a third in the closing 10 minutes.

Villa allowed Ozil too much time on the right and when Ramsey held up his cross Oxlade-Chamberlain, on for Walcott, saw his effort saved by Guzan before the keeper claimed Hector Bellerin’s injury-time header.

It was Arsenal’s only serious threat of the half but the damage had been done early with Arsenal left to ponder its title challenge and Villa left to fret over its topflight future.

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