Wenger turns on Villa after O'Neill spat

Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 2

Arsene Wenger last night lit a claret-and-blue touch paper of resentment and anger by accusing Aston Villa of putting undue pressure on the referee Lee Mason during a drama of passion and commitment in which Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead, and with it the chance to return to the top four.

The two managers clashed on the touchline, with Martin O'Neill being restrained by his assistant, John Robertson, and Mason also intervening, after Wenger reacted angrily to Villa being awarded a penalty. Later the Arsenal manager revealed just why he was so annoyed, although he also attempted to dismiss the incident as "nothing".

"I know how it works here," Wenger said, "at half-time the referee gets stick and after that every 50-50 decision goes the other way." The penalty, he stated, was a "turning point" that should never have happened with Gabriel Agbonlahor guilty of fouling William Gallas in the build-up while Villa were dismissed as "long-ball" and reliant on set pieces.

O'Neill, naturally, bridled. Agbonlahor was at the centre of his indignation, too. "Gabriel Agbonlahor was fouled in the build-up to their first goal and the referee chose to ignore it," he said. "It was unbelievable obstruction." Asked why Wenger was – not for the first time – claiming conspiracy, O'Neill said: "I could not give you a response to that. I think the referee must have seen it [the incident] at half-time himself."

However, he did concede that Robertson had challenged Mason in the tunnel. "John Robertson spoke to the referee and asked him to explain his decision," O'Neill said. "He just asked and the referee chose not to give an answer."

Wenger's argument was that Mason delivered his response in the second half – by giving more decisions in favour of Villa than his own players. That was harsh, unfair and overshadowed an exhilarating encounter. Wenger has been here before, of course, and it is a sign of the slender title chance his team now has that he is getting quite so agitated and on such a regular basis.

It was some ding-dong, some tussle. A real maelstrom of emotion with Villa, all turbo-charged confidence and soaring belief, out of the traps at pace and rattling the frame of the Arsenal goal three times in the opening period.

A corner from Gareth Barry and Steve Sidwell easily stole in front of Alex Song to crash his header against the post. Then a free-kick was beaten out, it fell to Luke Young on the area's edge whose fierce half-volley was deflected narrowly over.

The pressure built. Agbonlahor cut inside and forced Manuel Almunia into a block only for the ball to run to Sidwell. The goal beckoned but Gallas threw himself to deflect the ball wide.

How could it continue? Somehow it did. Ashley Young, increasingly dominant, increasingly elusive, curled a deep cross for James Milner to run on to. He met it on the volley only for Almunia to tip the ball onto the post and grasp the rebound.

Again it was Ashley Young providing. This time a free-kick, and it reached Curtis Davies who spun and delicately lifted a chip over Almunia. The ball cannoned off the crossbar.

And then, astonishingly, Arsenal, who lost Johan Djourou in the warm-up and then saw Song limp off, scored. Villa were sloppy. Nigel Reo-Coker tried to play the ball out, Denilson charged down and ran through to slip a shot off an incredulous Brad Friedel and into the net. Surely Villa would go in level? They didn't. But only because of a wonderfully athletic piece of defending from Bacary Sagna after Agbonlahor had reached Reo-Coker's cross and headed over Almunia. The ball was looping in but the right-back sprinted back to scissor-kick it off the line – and into Almunia's hands. Incredible

Little wonder O'Neill shook his head in disbelief. "I thought we could have been four or five goals in front," he later said. "We were absolutely brilliant and certainly got rocked by the goal." They were soon rocked again. And this time it was a goal of Arsenal vintage.

Abou Diaby nutmegged Davies down the touchline, sliding the ball to the overlapping Emmanuel Eboué and then powered on to reach the return and lift his shot past Friedel. Over in an instant. A goal to aspire to. Once more Arsenal danced through and substitute Aaron Ramsey miscued, the ball ran to Robin van Persie and his side-footed shot thumped off the post. Then, at the other end, Gallas lunged. This time, however, he caught the legs of Agbonlahor, just inside the area, as the striker galloped onto a through-ball and Barry, after a delay, crashed the penalty powerfully past Almunia. It made for a finale.

Villa pushed and pushed and finally, a minute into second-half injury time, Ashley Young headed a centre back across goal, Barry found Zat Knight, off Sagna's boot, and the big defender struck a sweet shot beyond an unsighted Almunia.

It meant Villa remained in fourth, three points ahead of Arsenal, rather than being leapfrogged by Wenger's side, and slipping to fifth. With that could have come a fierce psychological blow – along with a few verbal ones – and the touch paper was burning.

Goals: Denilson (40) 0-1; Diaby (49) 0-2; Barry pen (65) 1-2; Knight (90) 2-2.

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

Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Touré, Silvestre; Eboué, Denilson, Song (Ramsey, 43), Nasri (Clichy, 82); Diaby; Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Vela, Wilshere, Bendtner.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Booked: Aston Villa Reo-Coker, Petrov, Agbonlahor, Barry; Arsenal Touré, Diaby, Van Persie, Song.

Man of the match: A Young.

Attendance: 42,585.

Premier League Table: Misfiring Gunners

Arsenal's stuttering season

Arsenal 1-0 West Brom, 16 Aug

New boy Samir Nasri gets the season off to a flyer with a goal inside the first five minutes.



Fulham 1-0 Arsenal, 23 August

The Gunners show the first signs of defensive frailty, going down to a soft Hangeland header.



Blackburn 0-4 Arsenal, 13 Sept

Adebayor bags a hat-trick as Wenger's men show the swagger they've become famous for.



Arsenal 1-2 Hull, 27 September

The unthinkable happens. Hull net twice in four second-half minutes – including a stunner from Geovanni – to win at the Emirates.



Fenerbahce 2-5 Arsenal, 21 Oct

Their indifferent league form is forgotten as five different scorers, including teenager Aaron Ramsey, grab goals in Turkey.



Arsenal 4-4 Spurs, 29 October

The Gunners dominate for large periods against their bitter rivals but somehow conspire to throw away a certain win at the death.



Stoke 2-1 Arsenal, 1 November

Two Rory Delap throw-ins cause havoc in the defence and Stoke nick the win. Van Persie is sent off.



Arsenal 2-1 Man Utd, 8 November

With everyone writing them off, Wenger inspires his depleted side to a famous victory over United. Nasri gets both goals.



Arsenal 0-2 Aston Villa, 15 Nov

Once again, just as they appear to be getting back to their best, they crumble. Villa fully deserve the points at the Emirates.



Man City 3-0 Arsenal, 22 Nov

Wenger's men appear to be in freefall as Gallas is stripped of the captaincy for criticising his team-mates prior to this defeat .



Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal, 30 Nov

They do it again! Van Persie scores twice in three minutes to shock the league leaders.



Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool, 21 Dec

Van Persie puts them one-up but they can't hold on and Spurs old boy Robbie Keane nets a scorcher.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
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

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments