Goal mouth encounter
Goal mouth encounter
AFP

Birmingham: Aston Villa maintained its push for a finish in the European qualification positions by beating Arsenal 1-0 in the Premier League thanks to a goal after 74 seconds by Ollie Watkins on Saturday.

Bertrand Traore pounced on a loose pass by Cedric Soares and crossed to Watkins, whose first-time shot from a central position took a deflection off Rob Holding and squirmed into the net past Mat Ryan - an Arsenal debutant in goal.

Emi Martinez, a goalkeeper sold by Arsenal in the last offseason, preserved Villa's win with several fine saves, notably from a free kick by Granit Xhaka that was heading into the top corner.

Villa moved into eighth place and only five points behind Liverpool, which came into the 23rd round of games in fourth place. Villa has a game in hand, too, after missing two fixtures early in the new year because of a coronavirus outbreak in the squad.

It was a second straight loss for mid-table Arsenal, which was beaten 2-1 by Wolverhampton on Tuesday when it also had goalkeeper Bernd Leno and defender David Luiz sent off.

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