Hammers survive with 10 men Masuaku sees red but Pellegrini’s side hold on to claim point at Villa
There were plenty of ifs and one extraordinary butt as Aston Villa and West Ham United played out a breathless but goalless draw. The ifs came from the number of chances not taken – if only one had been converted, Villa would be out of the bottom three by more than goal difference or West Ham would be in the top three – and despite a sending-off, the biggest talking point centred on the butt.
It came when two Villa players, Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi, clashed angrily in the first half inside their own penalty area, with the latter clearly pushing his head into that of his team-mate’s as they argued.
“Handbags,” Villa captain Jack Grealish said, although he added that Mings had continued to make his point that El Ghazi had failed to track back, before the pair shook hands in the dressing room at halftime.
“I didn’t need to deal with it,” Villa manager Dean Smith said, admitting that El Ghazi had seen a “red mist” and reacted badly. “Looking at it, it went over the edge of what we want and the players dealt with it very quickly.”
There will be no disciplinary action for El Ghazi, who could actually have been dismissed for violent conduct. There was a video assistant referee check by Mike Dean but the official simply ended up reminding the two Villa players: “You’re on the same team.” Instead, it was West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku who harshly saw red later in the game for a second bookable offence as his team played out the final quarter with 10 men.
Manuel Pellegrini, the West Ham manager, was clear – substitute Ahmed Elmohamady had suckered Masuaku. “It is a second yellow card when you play away,” Pellegrini said. “It is very easy to simulate, to make a fake foul. They tried to do it with Mark Noble in the first half.” Having been booked, Noble was accused of diving in search of a penalty.
The worry for Villa was that they could not take advantage – although arguably Grealishshouldhavescoredlateon–with West Ham the more threatening without creating clear chances, but they could have been awarded a penalty in injury time as Mings possibly clipped Ryan Fredericks just inside the area, while only a poor pass from substitute Pablo Fornals prevented Sebastien Haller from having a shooting chance to win it.
As ever it seems with Dean the official inserted himself into the storyline and so Masuaku’s sending-off means it is now 102 times he has shown a red card in his career – 35 times more than any other Premier League referee, with Phil Dowd the next on 67.
“The West Ham of last season would have lost that,” Declan Rice said, and he had a point as his side claimed the point. The midfielder was also the game’s outstanding player and appeared set to make the breakthrough himself, only for Grealish to throw himself and block a fierce goalbound shot.
There may have been no goals but there was plenty of intent, loads of endeavour, with each side putting their bodies on the line to deny their opponents, and a relentless pace throughout. “I’ve just looked at our running stats and they are through the roof, but we didn’t use our brains enough to take advantage [of the extra man],” Smith said. “We lost a bit of emotional control there. I think we did get a little too desperate, to be honest.”
That was true. The fear for Villa is where those goals will come from and if, also, Grealish, with laudable intentions and wearing the captain’s armband, is trying to do too much himself. Still, he fashioned the outstanding chance of the first period when he exchanged passes with Jota, only for Wesley to head narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar from close range.
The red card came as Elmohamady ran into Masuaku by the touchline – could the defender have got out of the way? – and despite West Ham appeals to check the decision, Dean was not moved and insisted the defender left the pitch.
It seemed Grealish would decide it when he was picked out but he made a terrible hash of shooting, miscuing badly and hoping he was offside. He was not. Mings threw himself – like Grealish – to deny Haller and Lukasz Fabianski saved comfortably from El Ghazi after John Mcginn had swivelled and shot just wide.
At the final whistle, Villa players slumped to the turf. They felt they should have won but knew they
could have lost. “Four games unbeaten,” Pellegrini said as a way of celebrating what was his 66th birthday with his team moving up to eighth. “Maybe tonight was our option to be in the Champions League spot, which is why we tried from the first minute to win.” Villa tried, too. Just maybe too much.
Aston Villa (4-3-3) Heaton 6; Guilbert 7 (Davis 85), Engels 7, Mings 6, Taylor 6; Mcginn 6, Nakamba 6 (Douglas Luiz 81), Grealish 6; Jota 6 (Elmohamady 66), Wesley 6, El Ghazi 5. Subs Steer (g), Lansbury, Hourihane, Konsa. Booked Grealish, Mings.
West Ham (4-2-3-1) Fabianski 7; Masuaku 5, Ogbonna 6, Diop 6, Fredericks 6; Rice 8, Noble 6 (Balbuena 90); Anderson 6 (Zabaleta 69), Lanzini 6, Yarmolenko 6 (Fornals 62); Haller 6. Subs Jimenez (g), Snodgrass, Wilshere, Ajeti. Booked Masuaku, Noble. Sent off Masuaku.
Referee Mike Dean (Cheshire).
Falling out: Tyrone Mings clashes with Villa team-mate Anwar El Ghazi