Aston Villa have avoided being on the undesirable side of VAR (Video Assistant
Technology) so far this season and, more often that not, it has gone in
favour of the side in claret and blue. However, the latest fixture against Leicester City brought around one of the most controversial incidents seen since the arrival of VAR in the Premier League in 2019.
Jacob Ramsey’s disallowed goal
To the astonishment of those watching both in person and on television, referee Michael Oliver in ruled out a seemingly fair goal scored by midfielder Jacob Ramsey, nullifying his first goal ever at Villa Park.
In the 45th minute, just before the half-time whistle, the home side found themselves deep in the Foxes’ half, looking for a goal that would see them gain all momentum and lead at the break.
Douglas Luiz proceeded to deliver a teasing left-footed cross towards the back-post. The ball was met by Matty Cash’s head who redirected play into the centre of the box and that is when the drama unfolded.
Leicester’s goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, made a lunge for the ball, but could only brush with the top of his left hand. Ramsey pounced at the loose ball and hit it home from under the Dane’s insecure grasp. Villa Park erupted and Ramsey celebrated passionately in front of a packed North Stand for what appeared to be a monumental moment in the 21-year-old’s developing career.
The away side barely argued against the decision themselves, believing the goal was legitimate and fair, bar the man who played a big part in the event—Schmeichel.
Schmeichel remained grounded following the incident and received treatment and help from his side’s medical staff indicating he was hurt by the follow through of Ramsey’s strike. This despite replays failing to show any contact between the ‘goalscorer’s’ foot and the glove of Schmeichel.
VAR intervened, and following moments of communication between Oliver and the team at Stockley Park, the on-field official was asked to take a look at the challenge again on the pitch-side monitor - a settlement that typically leads to an overturning in decision.
As expected, Oliver signaled for ‘no goal’ and pointed in the direction of the away side’s play, awarding them a free-kick. According to VAR, Ramsey committed a foul with Schmeichel having full control of the ball.
Law 12—Fouls and Misconduct of the Laws of the Game and FA (Football Association) rules states a goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball with the hand(s) when:
The ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands or arms except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper has made a save.
As a result, Schmeichel was deemed to be in control of possession, as the ball was between his hand and the surface of play. Therefore, Ramsey had illegally played the ball while in was in the goalkeeper’s control.
Not surprisingly, boos echoed out around the stadium, and the hostility increased after a replay of the disallowed goal was shown back on the two big screens. The half-time whistle sounded just minutes later which brought about even more jeering from the home support, mainly aimed at referee Michael Oliver and ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
To Aston Villa’s relief, the decision would not end up having a huge significance on the outcome of the match, after coming out as deserved winners by a scoreline of two goals to one, courtesy of an Ezri Konsa brace.
With that being said, the circumstances around the victory would have probably been made far easier for Steven Gerrard’s side had the goal counted. The unfortunate Ramsey will be left feeling rather disappointed and bitter, but with the way the academy product is playing at the moment, that first home goal is bound to come sooner rather than later.
Ezri Konsa at the double
Ezri Konsa was searching for his first Aston Villa goal of the 2021/22 campaign, with the defender last netting for the Villans against Brighton & Hove Albion in a 2-1 loss in November last year.
The centre-back is renowned for winning many of his aerial duels in a defensive standpoint and has also shown plenty of attacking prowess from set-pieces this season, but has yet to register a goal for the club . . . until now!
Former West Bromwich Albion man, Harvey Barnes, opened the scoring on a freezing cold night at Villa Park, after a misplaced pass from Douglas Luiz and unconvincing tackles from Matty Cash and Marvelous Nakamba during a Leicester City counter-attack, the forward was able to sprint on and roll the ball into the corner of Emiliano Martínez’s goal.
The Foxes’ lead only lasted a matter of minutes, much to the dismay of Brendan Rodgers, whose side haven’t kept a clean sheet in 19 Premier League and Europa League games, the last coming in a 1-0 win in the opening game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Stemming from a free-kick down the Villa left, Douglas Luiz whipped the ball into the Leicester box which was originally headed away by defender Jonny Evans, but anticipated at the back-post by Matty Cash.
The Polish international sent the ball back towards the edge of the box and it was Emiliano Buendía who met it, guiding it towards the bottom corner. Villa’s number four, Ezri Konsa, got the slightest of touches on the ball which sent it into the side netting and past Schmeichel.
It was unknown to pretty much everyone in the stadium that Konsa had made contact with the ball as his touch was so faint, but when Michael Oliver cut Villa’s celebrations short by delaying his awarding of a goal, it was clear that the former Brentford man had done so, and questions were asked as to whether he was offside.
The Zambian, Patson Daka, was clearly positioned behind the ball subsequently playing Konsa onside, and the goal was given, much to the delight of both Konsa and the Villa faithful.
Konsa has of course had goal-scoring heartbreak before. A couple of seasons ago, in a 3-2 win over Watford, Konsa fired in a long-range, last minute effort which grazed the toe of Tyrone Mings on its way into the net. Konsa was devastated when he learned in the post-match interviews that the goal had been accredited to Mings.
The 24-year-old will be delighted that this one counted, and will be even happier that he could help his side back into the game. The goalscorer’s night would turn from good to even better as, just like London buses, two came at once! Konsa’s fine offensive contribution would continue, as he bagged his brace on the night.
Once again, Austin McPhee’s work in training paid off, as the goal that put the home side ahead derived from a dead-ball scenario, capitalising on Leicester City’s poor set-piece defending.
It was John McGinn who took the Villa corner, which was sent towards the back-post where Konsa was on hand to dispatch of the goal, outwitting Çağlar Söyüncü in the air. This one couldn’t be questioned or dismissed by VAR, and the defender raced off to celebrate in the corner accordingly.
Konsa is usually receives plaudits for his immense defensive work, where he puts in countless top performances in the Villa backline game in and game out, but the number four receives all the praise this game week for his remarkable attacking play. His willingness to win the ball and his reactions in the area signify the centre-back’s desire to score goals, and take his game to the next level.
The majority of Aston Villa fans ponder the question, ‘How is he not getting picked for the England national team?’, and with Gareth Southgate in attendance at Villa Park for the game, Konsa must have the England manager thinking about handing him a call-up for the next round of international games.
Gerrard’s game management
One thing that Aston Villa fans often criticised Dean Smith for during his time as head coach was that of his game management and choice and timing of his substitutions.
Smith became somewhat notorious for making substitutions far too late into games, and his side would concede leads frequently when a fresh pair of legs was needed or change in personnel seemed like the obvious resolution.
On the other hand, Steven Gerrard seems to have this side of his managerial game down to a tee. This has been evident since his arrival and was on display again against Leicester City.
There have been numerous instances over the last few games when Gerrard has welcomed players onto the pitch who proceed to make a difference, indicating that the former-Rangers boss knows precisely when and where to switch things up.
Villa fans were first introduced and made aware of Gerrard’s fine tactical work in his debut game against Brighton & Hove Albion last month, when he swapped Emi Buendia for Ashley Young with a little over 15 minutes to go in the game.
Young would go on to change the complexion of the game and making a substantial difference by providing the assist on Ollie Watkins’ opening goal.
The 36-year-old would also use his experience well to motivate and push his side up the pitch and score the second. He also helped the team run down the clock and ultimately see the game out with clever time-wasting measures.
In the following game against Crystal Palace, Gerrard brought on Buendía and Anwar El Ghazi which proved pivotal as the pair combined well to set up John McGinn, who secured the Villans’ second and game-winning goal.
In the recent Leicester fixture, Gerrard’s game management proved vital once again, but this time at the other end of the pitch, as defender Axel Tuanzebe made his first appearance under the new coach. Replacing Ramsey, Tuanzebe’s introduction was more than necessary as Gerrard anticipated a late away onslaught.
The centre-half slotted in the middle of fellow centre-backs Ezri Konsa and captain Tyrone Mings, and the extra body in the box proved necessary as it helped to shun the Foxes out late on and the home side’s lead remained intact.
Earlier in the tie, Sanson and Chukwuemeka were brought on in place of Douglas Luiz and Buendía. This was another good move from the former Liverpool captain who instantly swapped out the players when they started to appear tired or show signs of fatigue.
Luiz, Buendía and all of the team ran their socks off throughout the whole game, and the men brought on in their places mirrored this hard work.
This constant pressing/resilient playing style is a staple of Steven Gerrard’s system, so changes to the midfield and attacking areas, particularly those deployed in hard-running areas and positions, will often be the players taken off near the end of games.
Tidy work once again from Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard, who now sit in 10th position in the Premier League, on 19 points, after their latest victory over Leicester City at Villa Park.
In a highly dramatic, cultivating affair, there was one particular part of the game that stood out among all the others, and that was the tribute given to young Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in the 6th minute.
Play was stopped when the referee’s stopwatch hit 6 minutes, and both sets of players and fans, and everyone inside the stadium stopped and applauded in respect for the young lad, who sadly passed away last June, aged just 6.
Villa fans sang a number of chants in support of Arthur, namely, ‘We love you Arthur, we do’, as football came together in tribute for such a devastating and tragic event.
Rest in peace Arthur.