Arsenal stutter in title race after 2-0 loss to Villa

Leon Bailey found the breakthrough for Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal were stunned by two late Aston Villa goals as they lost 2-0 at home on Sunday to hand the initiative in the Premier League title race to defending champions Manchester City.

Villa substitute Leon Bailey tapped home from close range in the 84th minute before Ollie Watkins' sublime finish three minutes later sent Arsenal fans streaming for the exits.

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Arsenal's defeat, their first in 12 league games, sees them remain second, two points behind City and level on points with third-placed Liverpool with six games left to play.

"We knew that this moment could come and now it's about reacting and keep believing and doing what we can," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told reporters.

"Now is the moment to stand up, as a leader, as a character, to make yourself count. When you win and win and win for four months, it's very, very simple to do it. The moment is now."

Following Liverpool's 1-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday, the weekend belonged to City who bolstered their chances of an unprecedented fourth straight league title with a 5-1 demolition of visiting Luton Town on Saturday.

Villa weathered pressure in the first half, with Kai Havertz shooting straight at goalkeeper Emi Martinez before Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka hit the side-netting as an opening goal for the Gunners' felt like an imminent inevitability.

"We had one of the best performances in the first half that we had this season by far ... it should have been three or four or more," Arteta said.

But Villa went closest when Watkins' effort bounced off one post and narrowly wide of the other, while Youri Tielemans's rasping effort hit the crossbar then the post and somehow stayed out as the visitors improved considerably after the break.

Bailey gave the visitors the lead when he turned in Lucas Digne's dangerous cross before Watkins broke Arsenal hearts with a beautiful chip over keeper David Raya to settle the contest.

"It's massive to come away to Arsenal when they are playing such good football and to play like that just shows where we are going really, it was a perfect away performance," Villa's England striker Watkins told Sky Sports.

The win boosts fourth-placed Villa's chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League and moves them three points above Tottenham Hotspur, albeit having played a game more.