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Half-Time Report: Theo Walcott fires Arsenal in front of Aston Villa

Theo Walcott's 40th-minute strike gives Arsenal a deserved lead at half time of the FA Cup final against Aston Villa at Wembley.

Theo Walcott's 40th-minute strike has given Arsenal the lead at half time of this afternoon's FA Cup final against Aston Villa at Wembley.

It was an even start to the match, with the two opposing strikers Walcott and Christian Benteke being caught offside as they looked to get in behind and score an early goal.

Aston Villa defender Jores Okore and Theo Walcott of Arsenal contest for the ball during the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 30, 2015© Getty Images

The first threat in the penalty area arrived in the eighth minute when Alexis Sanchez fed Santi Cazorla, and the Spaniard's low cross was turned behind for a corner by the sliding Ron Vlaar. A pair of Arsenal corners followed and, from the second, Laurent Koscielny only managed to head wide when unchallenged.

Tom Cleverley was shown the first yellow card of the match by referee Jonathan Moss in the 14th minute and, from the resulting free kick, Arsenal could have scored only for Koscielny to head too close to Shay Given, who made an acrobatic stop with his right hand.

Minutes later, the Gunners again threatened and this time Aaron Ramsey was twice guilty of failing to hit the target, first stroking into the side-netting from a tight angle before blazing over with just Given to beat.

Alexis Sanchez and Tom Cleverley tussle for possession during the FA Cup final at Wembley between Arsenal and Aston Villa on May 30, 2015© AFP

Villa were struggling to have any impact in the opposing half and, but for an instinctive piece of defending from Kieran Richardson, they would have fallen behind in the 24th minute. Mesut Ozil crossed low for Walcott and the Englishman appeared to have the simplest of conversions, but Richardson slid in to somehow block on the line.

Alan Hutton and Fabian Delph picked up further bookings for Villa before the opening goal arrived five minutes before the interval.

Neat work down the left resulted in Nacho Monreal digging out a cross to the back post, where Sanchez got up well to head back across goal for Walcott, who lashed home a left-footed volley at the near post.

Theo Walcott wheels away in celebration after scoring the opening goal of the FA Cup final at Wembley between Arsenal and Aston Villa on May 30, 2015© Getty Images

Follow in-depth live coverage of the second half on Sports Mole by clicking here.

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Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrates as his cross deflects off of Tyler Blackett of Manchester United for an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on May 17, 2015
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Thursday's key events

· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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