Aston Villa beat local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers courtesy of a last-minute penalty from Anwar El-Ghazi in a game that was spoilt by the man in the middle, Mike Dean.
Dean Smith raised a few eyebrows when he handed Jacob Ramsey his first start for Villa as he replaced Conor Hourihane while Bertrand Traore came in for the injured Trezeguet.
Wolves strung a surprise of their own when they dropped Willy Boly for Romain Saiss in their defence.
The Mike Dean Show
It wasn’t the most of entertaining of games as it appeared both sides were reluctant to take a chance out of fear of being caught out by the opposition. In fact, the first real chance worth talking about came after 22 minutes when Ramsey’s volleyed effort went over the crossbar.
Then the Mike Dean show began. And I thought I would include his name in the title because that’s what he appears to want, the headlines. The game wasn’t a dirty affair but the number of cards brandished over the 90 minutes would suggest otherwise.
The first booking was handed to Matty Cash for appearing to impeded Pedro Neto despite Wolves doing the exact same thing at the other end of the pitch a few moments before. Just minutes later John McGinn joined his teammate in the book, this time for a foul on Daniel Podence. The Villa bench was not impressed.
The game ended with 6 yellow cards and one red for Villa while Wolves had 3 yellow and one red of their own. A statement mid-game comes out that Dean had now handed over 3,000 yellow cards during his career – something you would think he regards as an achievement!
More VAR controversy
It wouldn’t be a Premier League game without the mention of the very system that was supposed to stop the debates, would it? VAR strikes again.
The ball was crossed and appeared to catch the elbow of Saiss. Let me just say something, I would never in a million years have thought it was a penalty but in the modern game, it’s different.
We all remember that penalty Leicester were awarded last season when the ball hit Tyrone Mings shoulder? Well, the ball clearly hits Saiss on the elbow and yet the decision still didn’t go Villas way. In fact, the BT presenters seemed to point towards these new red and yellow zones that dictate a handball decision and if anything it highlighted even more so that it was a penalty.
Never in a million years was it a natural arm position!
Wolves come close before a last-minute penalty
As the game progressed, Villa took control of the game without a real threat and then in the final 15 minutes things seemed to change.
First Leander Dendoncker was denied by Emi Martinez when Neto crossed the ball for the Belgian midfielder but he couldn’t get past the Villa keeper.
Then came the bizarre sending off of Douglas Luiz. The Brazillian was judged to have jumped into Podence and it took Dean 30 seconds to make a decision despite everyone else getting set up for a Wolves throw-in. Outcome the second yellow as Luiz received his marching orders.
As the game looked more and more like it would be a 0-0 draw Nelson Samedo brings down McGinn in the penalty area. Substitute El Ghazi steps up and fires past Rui Patricio to hand Villa all three points.
It wasn’t all over just yet. Joao Moutinho brought down Ramsey late into extra time and card happy Dean was quick to pull out the 11th card of the game.
The game wasn’t pretty but Villa will take all three points back to Villa Park and prepare for their game against Burnley on Thursday.