Referee's change of heart aids Villa's rising fortunes

Hull City 0 Aston Villa 1

Martin O'Neill's inclination to play down Aston Villa's chances of finishing the season in a Champions League place looked entirely reasonable for 87 minutes last night as Hull responded to their manager's fit of Boxing Day pique with a stirring attempt to put their faltering season back on track.

Unfortunately for Phil Brown's side, however, Villa have developed the handy knack of scoring late goals and it came to their aid again just when it seemed Hull had denied them victory. A draw would have been enough to lift Villa back into fourth place but the unexpected bonus of a win from a below-par performance puts them level on points with Manchester United.

To compound Hull's frustration, referee Steve Bennett awarded the home side a stoppage-time penalty for hand-ball against Ashley Young only to reverse the decision after consulting his assistant, with television replays proving that he was right to change his mind because Michael Turner's header had hit the bar rather than the Villa player's hand.

It meant that Kamil Zayatte's 88th-minute own goal was enough to continue Villa's profitable sequence of late gains. In the last month, they have turned one point into three at Everton and salvaged a draw against Arsenal with stoppage time goals, while it was a 78th-minute own goal that secured victory at West Ham.

"We did not play well but we are always capable of producing something, even when you think there is no more energy to give," O'Neill said. "When the referee awarded the penalty, elation turned to despair and back to elation again. It was a courageous decision by the referee to change his mind."

Brown, not surprisingly, was less complimentary about the Kent official, even though the cameras exonerated him. "If he thinks it is a penalty and gives it, how can he then decide that a linesman 45 yards away has had a better view?" Brown asked. The only consolation for Brown was the knowledge that his public dressing-down of his players on the Eastlands pitch after their shambolic first-half display at Manchester City last Friday had produced the desired response.

After dropping five of the Boxing Day starting line-up, Hull played with the zest and tempo that characterised their explosive start to their debut Premier League season.

Indeed, they had the ball in the Villa net after five minutes and could argue that Bennett was generous to Brad Friedel in disallowing the goal. The proximity of Nick Barmby to the goalkeeper could hardly account for him dropping the ball before Nigel Reo-Coker put the ball in his own net.

Hull created more chances while Villa, despite long spells of possession, failed to do any damage.The home side finished the half strongly, forcing Curtis Davies into a clearing header that flashed perilously close to his own goal and Friedel into another handling error.

Clearly galvanised, Hull gained self-belief as the contest progressed. It frustrated Villa, with referee Bennett tending to bear the brunt. Gareth Barry, booked for a clumsy foul on Mendy, almost talked himself into more trouble when he made his feelings clear about what he perceived as a foul on him.

If one side looked capable of creating a goal it was Hull, for whom Halmosi worked himself an opening on the left before Reo-Coker threw himself forward to make a timely block. Later, only Zat Knight's intervention took the ball off the head of an unmarked Barmby as Sam Ricketts crossed from the left flank.

It was a considerable improvement on Hull's recent struggles but after Young's cross towards Agbonlahor had been diverted into his own goal by Zayatte their record of one win in 11 makes uncomfortable reading.

Goals: Zayatte og (88) 0-1.

Hull City (4-3-2-1): Myhill; McShane, Turner, Zayatte, Ricketts; Garcia (Fagan, 89), Barmby (Hughes, 85), Ashbee; Mendy, Halmosi; Cousin (King, 69). Substitutes not used: Doyle, Geovanni, Duke (gk), Giannakopoulos.

Aston Villa (4-1-4-1): Friedel; Reo-Coker, Knight, Davies, L Young; Petrov; Milner, Sidwell (Garner, 86), Barry, A Young; Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Harewood, Delfouneso, Salifou, Shorey, Guzan (gk), Osbourne.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Hull City Zayatte; Aston Villa Barry, Petrov.

Man of the match: Barry.

Attendance: 24,727.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada