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Aston Villa 1 Sheffield United 1 – Report

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Bodymoor Heath academy product Cameron Archer, sold to Sheffield United for £18million in August,

 

opened the scoring for the Blades before substitute Nicolo Zaniolo bagged his first league goal deep

in added time to earn Unai Emery’s team a draw which moved them up to the second in the table but not, frustratingly, to the summit.

 

It all came after Leon Bailey had seen a 59th minute goal chalked off when Jacob Ramsey,

following a near four-minute VAR check, was adjudged to have fouled visiting goalkeeper Wes Foderingham.

 

The decision ensured referee Anthony Taylor and video assistant John Brooks, who had earlier opted not to intervene when Ollie

Watkins appeared to be shoved over by Vinicius Souza, would draw the biggest post-match attention.

 

But the overwhelming emotion at the finish was one of frustration for Villa, who came into the match on a club record run of

15 consecutive home league wins yet could not find a way past the Blades, who moved off the bottom of the table courtesy of the point.

 

Chris Wilder’s team, winless on their travels and priced by some bookmakers as a 15-1 shot in

what must surely be the longest odds for a visiting top flight team at Villa Park in years, were terrifically disciplined in defence.

Though Villa bossed 78 per cent of possession, their most ever in a Premier League match since the statistic started being measured,

they were limited to just 11 attempts on goal and only four on target.

 

The Blades may well have delivered the blueprint for other clubs in the mid and lower table as to how best to tackle a Villa team usually ruthless on home turf.

 

Bailey’s strike, admittedly, appeared to have finally broken the visitors’ resistance but after VAR had intervened, Villa lost their way.

The Blades, previously content to sit back, finally showed some endeavour and looked to have snatched victory thanks to

Archer’s goal before Zaniolo struck late to earn Emery’s team a point which might still be significant come the end of the campaign.

 

Villa, who last topped the table in August 2011, staged the Premier League’s first mobile phone

light show a few minutes before kick-off and an assortment of dry ice machines and flamethrowers ensured the atmosphere was already feverish when the action did get underway.

 

The hosts took a little time to find their rhythm,

though they were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty as the visitors survived three VAR checks in the space of two minutes.

 

Souza seemed particularly lucky to avoid sanction when he barged over Watkins as the striker tried to meet a Lucas Digne cross. From the corner,

Ezri Konsa then appeared to be grappled to the ground while the video assistant Brooks also checked a possible handball by Jack Robinson.

 

Moussa Diaby brought the first save of the match from Foderingham with a first time shot from a Bailey pass and Konsa then really

should have broken the deadlock, only to head over at the far post when meeting McGinn’s deep corner.

 

Watkins also fired over from a Lenglet knockdown but from then the half rather fizzled as the visitors held their positions and continued to frustrate.

 

Emery was particularly animated, pouncing to pick up any ball which rolled near his

technical area and at one point indicating the officials might have been asleep when another ball rolled onto the pitch to halt a Villa attack.

 

His mood only got worse 14 minutes into the second half when Bailey broke the deadlock only for the goal to be ruled after,

following a wait of nearly four minutes, with referee Taylor ruling Ramsey had impeded Foderingham.

 

The verdict seemed harsh, with the contact minimal and the Blades having missed the chance to clear immediately afterward.

 

Regardless, the setback seemed to mess with Villa’s rhythm and the match had nearly reached the 80-minute mark before Watkins had their next shot.

 

By then the visitors had mustered their first effort through Oliver Norwood and as the match

entered the final 10 minutes Konsa nearly netted on their behalf with an attempted clearance which flew just a few feet wide of his own goal.

 

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With three minutes to go Archer did find the net when he turned home Gustavo Hamer’s cross

following a quick free-kick, with Villa substitute Jhon Duran having avoided sanction after appearing to catch Robinson with his arm.

 

Zaniolo at least spared Villa defeat seven minutes into stoppage time when he converted Luiz’s

cross but the overriding sense at the final whistle was of what might have been. Taylor, unsurprisingly, left the pitch to boos.

 

Teams

 

Villa (4-4-2): Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Lenglet, Digne (Moreno 74), Bailey (Zaniolo 82), Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey, Diaby (Duran 74), Watkins Subs not used: Carlos, Chambers, Dendoncker, Iroegbunam, O’Reilly, Marschall (gk).

 

Sheff U (5-4-1) : Foderingham, Bogle, Robinson, Trusty, Larouci (Lowe 58), Slimane (McAtee 76), Baldock, Souza, Norwood, Brooks (Hamer 58), Archer (McBurnie 90) Subs not used: Fleck, Traore, Thomas, Osborn, Davies (gk).

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