Not A Penalty But A Bit Of Deserved Luck
Villa finally favoured by a referee The footballing Gods finally smiled on Villa on Sunday. Martin O'Neill's men, who saw two hugely poor refereeing decisions end their domestic cup campaigns this season, enjoyed a lift in their fortunes against the oldest of rivals. Yes, Blues manager Alex McLeish was perturbed by Martin Atkinson's decision to give Villa an 83rd minute penalty in the second city derby. In truth, he probably had a right to feel hard done by. But this was fate's way of redressing the balance for Villa. It was a way of making the Claret and Blue faithful feel a little better after they were robbed of an FA and League Cup double-header. O'Neill, like McLeish on Sunday, was devastated after Phil Dowd failed to reduce Manchester United to ten men in the Carling Cup final in February. On that occasion, Nemanja Vidic felled Gabby Agbonlahor, a penalty was given but no card of any colour was issued. A big mistake by the man in black, and it cost Villa. Wayne Rooney netted a second half winner for his side and they, typically, claimed the spoils. And then, in the FA Cup semi-final, again played on the shredded Wembley surface, another one of England's elite got a call in their favour. Howard Webb adjudged Chelsea's John Obi Mikel's scything attempt at a challenge as a fair one and again Agbonlahor was left beating the turf in frustration. The west London Blues are now in the final and will take on a spirited, yet beatable Portsmouth outfit. And so we return to Sunday. A day when Villa had the chance to draw level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham in the Premier League. A day when the Claret and Blue could get one over on their rivals Birmingham for a sixth game in succession. And a day when the frustrations of weeks gone by could be lifted from the skys above Villa Park. Yes, it was meant to be. Maybe not for McLeish, but for Martin. The demonstrative gaffer deserved a twist of fortune in his favour. Referee Atkinson duly provided it. O'Neill did say after that he thought it was a penalty. But who can blame him? He probably thought his side deserved something from a match official at some point during the conclusion to this season. Roger Johnson was outraged at the decision and rightly so. But for Agbonlahor and O'Neill it was about time that things levelled themselves out. James Milner's cool finish from 12 yards ensured that retribution came in one of its sweetest forms - a win against bitter rivals. For Blues, there will be no consolation. But they must think back to their fortunate moments throughout the season and, be assured, there will also be some ahead for the men from St Andrews. But this was Villa's day and no referee or rival could take that away from Martin, Gabby and Co.
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