Villa comeback fuels O'Neill belief

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Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill highlighted his side's injury-time comeback against top-four rivals Arsenal as proof of the "significant progress" they have made in the last two seasons.

Villa are proving to be genuine contenders to break the 'big four' stranglehold in the Premier League and Friday evening's 2-2 draw at home to the Gunners ensured they maintained a three-point lead over Arsene Wenger's side as they both compete to secure a Champions League berth.

O'Neill said: "I think that two seasons ago we would have been unable to cope with going so far behind against maybe any opposition, let alone Arsenal. So that was really big. I feel the team have made significant progress."

Villa found themselves 2-0 down at home to the north Londoners after dominating the first half and spurning several chances.

But, after goals by Denilson and Abou Diaby against the run of play, Villa regrouped and roared back in style with a penalty by Gareth Barry before defender Zat Knight's stoppage-time equaliser.

Barry's penalty paved the way for the comeback after William Gallas went to ground when challenging Gabriel Agbonlahor just inside the area.

And Wenger indicated referee Lee Mason was influenced by the partisan atmosphere at Villa Park.

"I know how it works here," he said. "At half-time the referee gets stick and then in the second half every little 50-50 decision goes the other way.

"That's what happened. It's not only here. I waited at half-time to see what happened and I was not disappointed."

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European News
Gabriel Agbonlahor
Gareth Barry
Zat Knight
Aston Villa
Vassiriki Abou Diaby
William Gallas

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