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Nakamba stars in historic win

Marvelous Nakamba made his third English Premiership start for Aston Villa and was once again part of a remarkable record, as Dean Smith’s men completed a league double over Arsenal for the first time in 28 years at Villa Park yesterday.

Marvelous Nakamba (centre) made his third English Premiership start for Aston Villa and was once again part of a remarkable record, as Dean Smith’s men completed a league double over Arsenal for the first time in 28 years at Villa Park
Marvelous Nakamba (centre) made his third English Premiership start for Aston Villa and was once again part of a remarkable record, as Dean Smith’s men completed a league double over Arsenal for the first time in 28 years at Villa Park

The 27-year-old Zimbabwean midfielder played the whole match as Villa held on for a historic 1-0 victory against the Gunners.

Ollie Watkins, who took over Nakamba’s Number 11 jersey at the start of the season, scored the important goal after just 74 seconds.

The last time Aston Villa completed a double over Arsenal was back in the 1992/1993 season.

And Nakamba, who was recalled into the starting 11, rarely put a foot wrong.

Speculation over the Hwange-born star’s future at Villa dominated the January transfer window, but Villa coach Smith stuck with the Zimbabwean and instead shipped out Connor Hourihane, who is now at Championship side Swansea.

And yesterday Nakamba repaid his manager’s faith with a solid show.

Arsenal goalkeeper Mat Ryan conceded 74 seconds into his debut for Arsenal as Aston Villa completed their first top-flight double over the Gunners for 28 years.

Former Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez started the move which led to Bertrand Traore pouncing on a mistake by Cedric Soares before Watkins scored with a shot that deflected off Rob Holding.

Boyhood Gunners fan Ryan, signed on loan from Brighton in January and starting in place of suspended first-choice keeper Bernd Leno, produced a fine save to deny Traore a goal on his return to the Villa side.

Martinez frustrated his former club further when the Argentine produced an excellent save to keep out Granit Xhaka’s free-kick.

Villa move up to eighth in the Premier League with Arsenal in 10th.

The Clarets and Blue climbed above Tottenham and closed to within three points off fifth spot through Watkins’ 10th Premier League goal since joining from Brentford for a club record £28m in September.

Three of those goals have been against Arsenal – the 25-year-old scoring two in Villa’s 3-0 win at Emirates in November.

After a barren run of games without a goal between November and January, there are clear signs Watkins is warming to playing at a higher level.

In netting Villa’s earliest Premier League goal since 2014, Watkins has four goals in his past five top-flight appearances after Cedric’s intended pass to Gabriel was way too short, allowing Traore to nip in and cross for the striker to score.

This was Villa’s sixth game in 18 days but there was little sign of fatigue as they worked hard to return to winning ways after being picked apart by West Ham on Wednesday.

John McGinn and Jack Grealish were both denied by Ryan while Watkins forced the Arsenal keeper into two further saves.

Burkina Faso forward Traore brought fresh energy after being a substitute on Wednesday, while Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings helped limit Arsenal to three attempts on target.

During a sustained period of Arsenal pressure, Mings did well to block Emile Smith Rowe’s goal-bound attempt and Matty Cash got in the way of Bukayo Saka’s shot. The Sunday Mail

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