Roy Hodgson said his Crystal Palace side did not need to “apologise” for their 1-0 Premier League win over 10-man Aston Villa, after the visitors had a late equaliser controversially ruled out.
Jordan Ayew’s instinctive finish ultimately decided the match at Selhurst Park, but Villa were incensed as Henri Lansbury’s added-time effort was disallowed for what referee Kevin Friend judged to be a dive by Jack Grealish in the build-up.
It also prompted angry scenes off the pitch, with TV footage showing punches being thrown at security staff by spectactors in the away end. Police with batons eventually intervened, making one arrest, with video footage under review to assess if further action is necessary.
“It’s unfortunate in some ways for us that it’s all going to centre around the controversy at the end,” said Hodgson, whose side are up to fourth in the formative Premier League table after back-to-back wins.
“Lucky for us the referee had made his decision before the ball had gone in the net and that was to give the free-kick,” he added.
“I don’t think we need to apologise at all for the fact that we won the game.”
Villa manager Dean Smith admitted he was bemused by the decision to deny his side a point, but accepted they would “take it on the chin”.
Smith said: “I’m not sure any of us know why the referee has given the decision. We’ve all looked at it back and nobody can see why he hasn’t given the goal.”
In a statement, the Premier League said: “The referee considered that Jack Grealish committed an act of simulation in the penalty area, and blew his whistle to stop the game before the ball went into goal.
“Under the Ifab protocol the video assistant referee system (VAR) is allowed to review the potential penalty situation. Having reviewed the incident the VAR judged that no ‘clear and obvious’ error had occurred and the on-field decision of simulation remained.
“The VAR was unable to check the ‘goal’ because the whistle went before the ball went into the net.”
Earlier, the hosts had looked to be heading for another home blank, despite Villa’s Trezeguet seeing red for a second bookable offence – the Egyptian’s dismissal, for a late challenge on Wilfried Zaha, among seven bookings dished out by referee Friend.
But with time running out, Ghanaian Ayew, who was part of the Villa side relegated from the top flight in 2016, tricked his way past Tyone Mings and Grealish before firing low beyond Tom Heaton.
It means Ayew has now scored in consecutive Premier League games, having also struck in the win at Manchester United.
But it was another frustrating day for his Eagles team-mate Zaha, who has now scored just once in his last 17 home league appearances.
Villa feel ‘robbed’ of away point
Aston Villa beat Everton at home last time out, but are now winless in 20 Premier League away games, losing their last nine in a row.
And after a late collapse at Tottenham denied them any points in their only other away league game this season, Lansbury’s disallowed goal was a bitter pill to swallow for Smith’s side.
Deep into six added minutes, a hand from Zaha appeared to set Grealish – making his 150th appearance for Villa – off balance as he bore down on the Palace 18-yard box.
But the Villa captain succeeded in completing his pass to Lansbury before running into first Gary Cahill and then the turf.
The decision of referee Friend prompted desperate protests from the visitors and their supporters, with Cahill holding Grealish back from the official as he was booked.
Speaking afterwards, Villa midfielder John McGinn said replays of the incident “speaks for itself” and claimed his side had been “robbed of a point”.
Hodgson’s Palace find a way to win
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted: “The disallowed goal for @AVFCOfficial in the last minute has to be seen to be believed. Why VAR didn’t correct what appeared to be an awful refereeing error is beyond me.”
But in truth, Friend’s decision saved Hodgson’s side from ending a match which they had dominated in embarrassment, with the hosts having had 22 shots on Heaton’s goal.
Cheikhou Kouyate was among the most wasteful, with just one of his six shots being on target. Captain Luka Milivojevic also went close, seeing an effort from distance pushed away from the top left hand corner of Heaton’s goal straight after Trezeguet was dismissed.
But despite their wastefulness, victory for Palace enhances an extended run of good form in the top flight.
Indeed, you could be forgiven for not knowing that only Manchester City (52) and Liverpool (48) have won more points than the 33 now collected by Palace since February.
With more than 10% of the season already complete, the south London club will now hope they can carry their momentum to the other side of September’s international break.
Man of the match – Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)
Hodgson keeps spell over Villa – the stats
- Crystal Palace have kept a clean sheet in both of their opening two home games in a league season for the first time since 2008-09, while it’s the first time they’ve ever done so in a Premier League campaign.
- Palace have also now won two of their last three Premier League home games, drawing the other. It is as many wins as they had in their previous 10 at Selhurst Park.
- Trezeguet became the first Aston Villa player to be sent off in a Premier League match since Aly Cissokho against Watford in April 2016.
- Crystal Palace striker Jordan Ayew has scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since December 2015, when he was an Aston Villa player.
- Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has won his first Premier League meeting against Aston Villa with all five of his clubs in the competition (Blackburn, Fulham, Liverpool, West Brom and Crystal Palace).
After the international break, Palace resume their Premier League season with a trip to Tottenham on Saturday, 14 September (15:00 BST).
Villa’s next fixture sees them host West Ham on Monday, 16 September (20:00 BST).