The Latics headed back up the M6 from Villa Park with a share of the spoils in a game which had the sublime, N’Zogbia’s opening goal, and the downright ridiculous, Emile Heskey’s hissy fit.
Roberto Martinez made just one change from last weekend’s draw with Everton, Victor Moses replacing the injured Momo Diame, Charles N’Zogbia recovering from his dead leg sustained in the same match took his place in the starting eleven.
It was N’Zogbia who made the first mark on the game after 10 minutes, finishing off coolly at an angle past Friedel in the Villa goal from 12 yards. Latics had won possession of the ball on the half way line, Victor Moses shrugged off a couple of challenges and slipped in N’Zogbia who’s first time effort beat the Villa keeper at his far post, 0-1.
The lead lasted barely seven minutes when Ashley Young won the softest of free-kicks 22 yards out, running across the front of the Latics penalty area Young ‘went down’ as Ben Watson came in to make a challenge, the fact that Watson hadn’t ‘got there yet’ didn’t stop Young gaining another free kick to add to his tally making him the Premier League’s most ‘fouled’ player.
Unsurprisingly the England international jumped up from his stricken position and cracked a low drive round the Latics wall beating Al-Habsi at the far post, the Latics keeper got his hand to the ball but couldn’t quite push it round the post, 1-1.
Then the ridiculous, former Latics man Emile Heskey lost the plot, a ball was pumped towards Heskey but he was out jumped by Antolin Alcaraz who cleared with a towering header, Heskey fell to the ground clutching his head as though shot.
When he realised that the referee Mike Jones hadn’t awarded a free kick, Heskey suddenly sprung to his feet and chased after the match official barging into him and going nose to nose with the ref, surprisingly Heskey, although seeing red was only shown a yellow card but he was still bruising for a fight for the rest of the first half and he was lucky to escape without a further card.
Following a half-time tunnel bust up as the players were leaving the pitch for their cuppa’s, Villa acting boss Gary McAllister replaced Heskey with Marc Albrighton for the second half sending the big man home.
The second half saw both sides go close, Darren Bent was through one on one with Al-Habsi, the Latics keeper stayed big and saved with his leg, at the other end right at the death, substitute Franco Di Santo flicked on a free-kick and Hugo Rodallega, tightly marked by Richard Dunne, managed to swivel and crack a shot from 10 yards which went inches wide of the far post with Friedel well beaten.
So one point towards safety, the big game next weekend, it’s all getting just a little too exciting for my blood pressure.
Villa: Friedel, Walker, Dunne, Collins, L. Young, Petrov, Downing, Reo-Coker, A. Young, Bent, Heskey (Albrighton, 45).
Subs not used: Marshall, Pires, Cuellar, Delph, Bradley, Delfouneso
Latics: Al-Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Watson, McCarthy, Cleverley, Moses (Di Santo, 82), N’Zogbia (McArthur, 69), Rodallega.
Subs not used: Kirkland, Gohouri, Gomez, Sammon, Thomas.