Zola hails Green display
Gianfranco Zola felt West Ham keeper Robert Green was back to his best in helping his side earn a valuable point from a goalless draw at high-riding Aston Villa.
The England player pulled off several fine saves and survived his only error when he lost possession under pressure from Villa striker John Carew. A share of the spoils moved the Hammers above Wolves and Hull and out of the bottom three.
Zola quipped: "Robert Green was outstanding apart from one moment when my heart stopped for a few seconds, fortunately not long enough to damage my brain! That is already damaged! But, in all seriousness, Robert's performance was really excellent and he was back to his normal sort of standard."
Zola also praised Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov for helping to ensure Hammers midfielder Radoslav Kovac escaped a red card after a reckless challenge on the Bulgaria international.
Kovac had already been booked but Petrov leapt quickly to his feet rather than make the most of the situation. It led to Kovac being given a final warning by referee Mick Jones via Hammers skipper Matthew Upson and he was substituted shortly afterwards.
Zola said: "I took Kovac off as a precaution. The referee told our skipper (Upson) that probably the next tackle was going to result in a sending-off so we took no chance.
"I also have to congratulate Petrov for his part because he is a fair person and a fair player.
"But I think, to be honest, the first booking was a little bit harsh because it wasn't a foul. Maybe the referee levelled up everything."
Villa boss Martin O'Neill played down the significance of a verbal exchange with fans situated behind the dugout during the latter stages of the game. O'Neill and Villa's goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh appeared to have words with several spectators as the match reached its climax.
The former Celtic boss quipped: "It was my brother! I told him not to say anything. He was giving me a bit of advice. I shall see him when I get home. I didn't know about Seamus and I'm not so sure this is really a big issue. It does not concern me. The issue today was we were unable to score a goal but it was a big effort by my players considering we played in the Carling Cup semi-final only on Thursday."
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