Amid all the heat and light generated by a fierce West Midlands rivalry stretching back into the 19th century, the calmest observation came from a Swede. West Bromwich Albion's defender Jonas Olsson, scorer of his team's equalising goal after being caught up in the game's most controversial incident, said simply: "They are not black and white, these things." If they were, the seven-day-a-week talking shop that English football has become would be a far quieter place.
As it was, there was plenty to debate in a game of two penalties, one red card that might have been two, and five yellow. There was even disagreement in the Albion dressing-room about the fearsome tackle by Villa's Alan Hutton on Shane Long after quarter of an hour. Roy Hodgson said it could have broken both legs and Paul Scharner, who scored the winning goal, claimed Long had been targeted from the start: "They tried very hard to kick him." Olsson seemed to think that was a fair challenge, however, as did the referee Phil Dowd, who did not award a free-kick. It was only later as the feud escalated that Hutton was booked and Long limped off. He will have a scan today.
On the incident in which he himself was involved, the dismissal of Villa's Chris Herd for an alleged stamp indicated by the assistant referee Darren Cann, Olsson said: "He kicks back and hits me on my thigh. He will think it's a bit harsh but I think he will agree it's a foul." Not a red card, however, according to the Villa manager Alex McLeish, who will appeal against it and believed it changed the course of the game.
Chris Brunt missed the subsequent penalty by the width of the M6 but the visitors were clawing their way back into contention at that point after suffering from the first, correct penalty decision, when Ben Foster brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent atoned for a bad early miss with his perfect penalty kick.
Hodgson used Bent as an example of Villa's superior spending power and crowd potential, even though the attendance was 8,000 down on capacity and not even Villa Park's best of the season. There is a disenchantment with the team and their manager, growing stronger after successive defeats followed an unbeaten start to the season. Albion, in contrast, have delighted their supporters with victories over Wolves and Villa – the first on this ground in the League since 1979 – to take into more demanding meetings with Liverpool and Arsenal. Scharner has caused a rumpus in both games by displaying an Albion t-shirt. This time he was booked for so doing. He says he will now auction it for charity.
Sent-off: Aston Villa Herd (36)
Man of the match: Scharner
Referee: P Dowd (Staffs)
Attendance: 34,152.Reuse content