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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering