Jay Rodriguez admits scoring late equaliser for West Brom against Aston Villa with handWest Brom 2 Aston Villa 2
West Brom 2 Aston Villa 2
Aston Villa were controversially denied maximum points as Darren England, the referee, allowed a Jay Rodriguez stoppage-time equaliser to stand after the West Bromwich Albion striker had clearly bundled the ball into the net with his hands.
The South Yorkshire official consulted his assistant on the line in response to vehement protests by goalkeeper Orjan Nyland and his team-mates but did not reverse his decision, leaving Villa with a sense of injustice that replays showed was understandable.
Diving in to meet a Matt Phillips cross, with Albion throwing everything into a late bid to salvage a point, Rodriguez first headed the ball against his hand as he knocked it beyond Nyland, before touching it again as he landed to help it over the line.
“We’ve been denied three points by a goal that never should have been allowed,” Dean Smith, the Villa head coach, said. “The lad has admitted it afterwards to the cameras – I think he’s handled it twice.
“When you see a reaction like that from 11 players, you know that something is amiss. Looking at the linesman, he was in a really good position to see it. Everyone has seen it but unfortunately the people that matter haven’t. I’ve not spoken to the referee because there is no point. I can’t change it.
“We’ve gone head to head with a team that was relegated from the Premier League last season in front of a full house and they know we deserved to win the game. But it happens. We’ll get over it.”
Rodriguez confessed to his guilt immediately, although he insisted to head coach Darren Moore that he had made an honest attempt to score by legitimate means. “The ball’s landed, it’s just how my hands fell,” Rodriguez said. “It’s luckily gone in, the referee has not seen it. It has hit my hand but sometimes you get that luck, sometimes you don’t.”
Until that moment, it had looked as though two goals by Anwar El Ghazi, their Dutch international striker, would maintain Villa’s surge and lift them into the top six of the Championship for the first time since Smith replaced Steve Bruce in charge.
The first was fortunate, his shot taking a substantial deflection off defender Ahmed Hegazi so that goalkeeper Sam Johnstone had no chance of keeping it out of the net.
Villa had arrived in excellent form, with 17 goals in their previous five matches including 3-0 wins at both Derby and Middlesbrough, which would have given the home side a pretty good idea of what they were up against in possibly the most meaningful match between these rivals since the early 1980s.
But this is an Albion side equally full of goals – three more than Villa at the start – and any notion Villa might have had of keeping another clean sheet away from home was knocked on the head by a superb equaliser in the 28th minute. It was a route-one goal in that it stemmed from Phillips’ long clearance but one that was finished clinically after Harvey Barnes, having beaten Hutton to possession, delivered a wonderfully weighted cross for Dwight Gayle to meet with a side-foot volley into the net.
John McGinn hit the woodwork with a fine effort before half-time before Villa regained the lead after 59 minutes as El Ghazi found the net again, this time cleanly, striking a superb shot beyond the reach of Johnstone after Jack Grealish had released a pass just before being chopped down by Jake Livermore.
Villa contained Albion well enough after going in front – a feather in the cap of defensive coach John Terry on his 38th birthday – but Albion kept pressing.
“I can imagine that Dean will be unhappy with the goal and I can understand that,” Moore said. “But from my point of view, I’m delighted to come out of a game of this magnitude with a point because the way we kept going to the end, I don’t think we deserved to lose.”
Albion remain in third place, although by drawing twice at home in the space of five days they have missed an opportunity to close the gap on top two Norwich and Leeds.
West Bromwich Albion (4-3-3) Johnstone; Adarabioyo (Burke 82), Dawson, Hegazi, Gibbs; Phillips, Barry, Livermore (Brunt 72); Gayle, Rodriguez, Barnes. Subs Myhill (g), Mears, Harper, Hoolahan, Sako.
Aston Villa (4-3-3) Nyland; Hutton, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor (Elmohamady 52); McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish (Whelan 87); El Ghazi, Abraham, Bolasie (Kodjia 82). Subs Bunn (g), Revan, O’Hare, Hogan.