Gunners back on track thanks to Benayoun

ASTON VILLA 1 vs ARSENAL 2

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger hailed his side’s character after Yossi Benyaoun’s 87th minute header secured a valuable win in their quest to finish in the top four.

Robin van Persie equaled Thierry Henry’s club record of 34 Premier League goals in a calendar year with a 17th minute penalty, but Marc Albrighton appeared to have earned Villa a point when he struck 10 minutes after the interval with what turned out to be the landmark 20,000th goal in the competition’s history.

But Benayoun, a deadline day loan signing from Chelsea, ensured Arsenal moved level on points with his parent club when he powered home Van Persie’s corner.

“Our spirit is exceptional and that's why we came from a bad start to the season to such a strong run,” said Wenger. “You could see that some legs were a bit jaded from Sunday [against Man City], and some minds in the speed of the decision making.

“But we still kept going and there is an exceptional attitude and spirit in the side. Tonight, very unusually for us we scored from two set-pieces, that is basically historical.”

Villa seemed certain to be in for a long night when Van Persie slammed home from the spot after Theo Walcott had been tugged back by Ciaran Clark.

Alex McLeish’s men hung in, however, and capitalised on a sluggish Arsenal start to the second period when a mix-up between Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker allowed Albrighton to dart in and pinch an equaliser.

But Benayoun (left), an 81st minute substitute grabbed the three points just six minutes after his introduction with a far post header.