Villa held by 10-man United
Nani shown red card in action-packed first-half
By James Riach. Last Updated: 10/02/10 11:26pm
Nani: Shown the red card
Manchester United held on for a 1-1 draw away at Aston Villa, despite being down to 10 men for the majority of the game.
Portuguese winger Nani was shown the red card by referee Peter Walton in the 29th minute at Villa Park after a lunge on opposing skipper Stiliyan Petrov.
The scoring had already been completed when he was given his marching orders, as Carlos Cuellar put Villa in front in the 19th minute with a looping header past Edwin van der Sar, after Stewart Downing's cross from the right was only half-cleared by Rafael.
The lead only lasted four minutes, however, as United were helped by yet another own goal - James Collins deflecting the ball in from close range after Ryan Giggs volleyed Nani's ball across goal.
Villa threw on John Carew in the second half but United fought hard and were good value for a point - indeed, they could have come away with the win.
In the build-up, Nani had spoken about how down he felt at times during his first two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford, when it appeared his destiny was only to leave.
The past fortnight offered the hope of redemption as finally the pace and balance was accompanied by a bit of thought and composure.
But thought and composure were both lacking when the Portuguese attacker launched himself at Petrov.
The former Sporting Lisbon wide-man is not a dirty player and the claim that he won the ball was true.
Yet anyone who is not aware that leaving the ground to make a tackle brings an instant red card has not been paying enough attention over the last few years.
Referee Peter Walton was near enough to make a judgment and duly sent Nani to have an early bath and out of the Wembley showpiece between these sides on 28th February.
It brought to an end a tactical opening half-hour which Villa led for precisely four minutes.
After wasting a corner, Stewart Downing was offered a second chance to cross into the United box. Rafael stuck out a boot to make the initial clearance but the ball looped up handily for Cuellar, who got an impressive amount of power into his header and, from 15 yards, sent it arching over Edwin van der Sar.
Following their first Old Trafford win since 1981 two months ago, Villa were now in position to end another long-running sequence against the Red Devils.
Yet this is not Ferguson's favourite away ground for nothing. Even though their fans now twirl green and gold scarves above their heads as a continuing protest against the Glazer family, the United travelling support still makes an impressive noise.
And they were soon celebrating an equaliser as Ryan Giggs' cross-shot from the left was turned into his own net by Collins.
It took into double figures a quite staggering number of own goals for United this term - a clear second on the club's scoring chart and nearly half as many as Wayne Rooney.
The England star had been having one of his less effective days, yet he still managed to threaten the home goal with shots from both angles that fizzed over Brad Friedel, who had already saved well to deny Michael Carrick.
With the balance of play remaining with the visitors, it was hard to escape a conclusion that Villa would have preferred to be playing against 11 men, whose defences were rather less solid.
For all the plaudits that have been heaped on Martin O'Neill's men in recent times, dictating play is still a problem and the hosts were markedly less of a threat once their opponents were a man down.
The loss of Giggs to what appeared to be a pretty severe elbow injury could have dire consequences for next Tuesday's UEFA Champions League trip to AC Milan.
Rooney's shot shortly afterwards would have had dire consequences for Villa if Friedel had not acrobatically turned it over.
Villa finally shrugged off their lethargy for a concerted assault on the United goal in the final 10 minutes.
But apart from an untimely Van der Sar juggle and Carew's late penalty claim, the hosts were bereft of ideas, and United were probably irritated they did not head back up the M6 with more than a point.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||3|
|5||Shots off Target||7|
Barclays Premier League
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15||15|
|17||West Ham United||15||13|