Ruffled Villa hit panic button

Aston Villa 2 Arsenal 2

The subject of foolishness comes up because Aston Villa's Sasa Curcic and Steve Staunton were shown yellow cards for suggesting to the referee, in a roundabout way, that he must have mislaid his timepiece.

Seeing Andy Linighan equalise for Arsenal in the overtime Mike Riley allowed was all too much for them. "He (the referee) destroyed a beautiful game," Curcic said. Not the game, but a victory that would have put Villa on top of the Premiership.

Sometimes you have to wonder what goes on in the minds of footballers. They can count their cash, of course, but not, it seems, weigh up the cost of pointless protests. It is easy enough to get booked these days without looking for trouble, which is what Curcic and Staunton did when it was finally over.

Probably, the Villa manager, Brian Little, had words with them about this, especially as he was rather more philosophical. "The amount of time added on did seem a lot," Little said, "but perhaps at some stage in the season it will work in our favour."

Last week it worked against Arsenal when Dennis Wise equalised for Chelsea in overtime. "You just have to accept that it isn't over until it's over," Arsenal's caretaker manager, Stewart Houston, said. In other words, no longer 45 minutes each way but exactly as the referee calls it.

In any case, Villa had only themselves to blame for getting all wound up when Arsenal gambled on throwing more men forward.

"We panicked a bit," Little said. That is putting it mildly. When Arsenal abandoned a system designed for what managers like to call "keeping a clean sheet", bringing on John Hartson for the defender Steve Morrow, all the composure went out of Villa's defence. It did not help when they began to give the ball away and lost the knack of holding it up in Arsenal's half.

Villa had been coasting with the advantage of Savo Milosevic's two goals, but they were thrown out of gear by Arsenal's spirited comeback.

Nobody did more to unsettle them than Paul Merson, who caused no end of trouble when released to run with the ball. If Merson's troubles are now all behind him, on this form he could come back into the England reckoning. With Merson spearheading a revival - "after conceding two disappointing goals, it was a case of 'Here we go again'," Houston said - it became an exciting match that emphasised the extent of Arsenal's character.

Things, suddenly, were going every which way. In the 70th minute Dennis Bergkamp broke left and picked out Merson with a cross that Merson headed past Michael Oakes, who is performing well as a deputy for the injured Mark Bosnich.

Until then there had been plenty to admire in Villa's enterprising football, particularly the ease with which they switch positions and responsibility.

Granted the initiative by Arsenal, they survived a scare when Merson's nudge against the crossbar rebounded on to the goal-line. In this instance, certainly, the referee was spot on with his judgement, television replays showing that the ball had not crossed the line.

The protest that Milosevic had strayed offside before wrong-footing John Lukic to put Villa ahead in the 39th minute was, as television suggested, probably more legitimate.

Either way, it will be interesting to see what the Football Association come up with in an attempt to eradicate these thorny issues.

Milosevic's second was down to bad defending. Dwight Yorke was given room in which to sting Lukic's fingers, and the ball fell invitingly for the Yugoslav.

Doubtless, Linighan's equaliser will lead to some words about lack of concentration. Villa were aware that Arsenal are dangerous at corner kicks but they could not prevent Martin Keown from flicking on Merson's inswinger.

"That was a lesson out there today," Little added, "and I hope the players learned from it." One thing Curcic and Staunton should have learned is the value of keeping your mouth shut.

Goals: Milosevic (39) 1-0, (63) 2-0; Merson (70) 2-1; Linighan (90) 2-2.

Aston Villa (3-4-1-2): Oakes; Curcic, Staunton, Southgate; Wright, Ehiogu, Townsend, Nelson (Taylor, 60); Draper; Yorke, Milosevic (Johnson, 84). Substitutes not used: McGrath, Scimeca, Rachel (gk).

Arsenal (5-3-2) Lukic: Dixon, Winterburn, Linighan, Keown, Parlour; Platt, Wright, Merson; Bergkamp (Helder, 80), Morrow (Hartson, 67). Substitutes not used: Shaw, Rose, Harper (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Bookings: Aston Villa: Curcic, Staunton. Arsenal: Platt, Wright, Morrow, Hartson.

Man of the match: Merson.

Attendance: 37,944.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones