Aston Villa’s trip down to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal earlier today was certainly a game to remember.
Villa took the lead through John McGinn in the 20th minute and we then saw the hosts reduced to ten men as Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent from the pitch for two bookable offences. Arsenal levelled just ahead of the hour mark as they took full advantage from the penalty spot, but Wesley had us back in front 60 seconds later.
Inside of the final ten minutes, we sat too far back and Arsenal took full advantage to score twice to take a disappointing 3-2 victory and we certainly deserved far more for our efforts.
Speaking to the BBC following the full time whistle, head coach Dean Smith was naturally disappointed to see us not come away with anything from the tie.
“I am bitterly disappointed. We lost our structure for periods in the second half. First half we were on the front foot and looked solid. It is always going to be a tough game but we will never get a better chance to win. The game became too open with them at 10 men. We lost our fearlessness but for some reason we retracted second half and put us under pressure. We scored again and had a good five minute spell but retracted again. The players lost a bit of belief and that is what disappointed me the most. You look at the goals we conceded and they are sloppy. We concede a penalty and give a free-kick away. Second goal, Tyrone Mings has cushioned a header to Neil Taylor and should have put it out for a corner.”
With a penalty shout our way, Smith added.
“I thought it was penalty (handball – Sokratis). He leant towards the ball, which was going towards the goal. It has hit his arm so I don’t know why it wasn’t. But if you’re asking about handballs in the box these days, I don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows. We have seen some subjective ones. If they get a good view on the TV screens they need to overrule the on-field referee.”
More positives for those who want to take them, but a very unfortunate end to the game and we should’ve dealt better with it, as Smith pointed to.