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Aston Villa 1-1 Sheffield United: Nicolo Zaniolo's late equaliser not enough to move Villa top of Premier League

Report and highlights as Aston Villa and Sheffield United drew in dramatic fashion at Villa Park when Nicolo Zaniola's stoppage-time equaliser cancelled out Cameron Archer's late goal. Villa miss the chance to move top. The Blades are off the bottom

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Highlights from Aston Villa's match with Sheffield United in the Premier League

Nicolo Zaniolo scored a 97th-minute equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw for Aston Villa against Sheffield United but Unai Emery’s side missed the chance to move top of the Premier League table.

Cameron Archer's 87th-minute finish against his former club looked to have won it for Chris Wilder's side but substitute Zaniolo headed in to preserve Villa's unbeaten home record - even as they dropped points for the first time this season at Villa Park.

Both sides were left frustrated at the end of a dramatic game, each moving up one place rather than the two that they had hoped for. Villa go above Liverpool into second spot. The Blades are at least off the bottom but remain five points away from safety.

Player ratings

Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (5), Konsa (6), Lenglet (6), Digne (6), Douglas Luiz (7), McGinn (6), Bailey (7), Ramsey (7), Diaby (7), Watkins (6).

Subs: Duran (6), Moreno (7), Zaniolo (7).

Sheffield United: Foderingham (6), Bogle (7), Robinson (7), Trusty (7), Larouci (6), Ben Slimane (6), Baldock (6), Vinicius Souza (6), Norwood (6), Brooks (6), Archer (7).

Subs: Lowe (7), Hamer (7), McAtee (6), McBurnie (n/a).

Player of the match: Jack Robinson.

Villa could point to an early penalty shout for a push on Ollie Watkins and a disallowed Leon Bailey goal when Jacob Ramsey was adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper following a VAR check. But they were unable to create enough against determined opposition.

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What classes as a 'phase of play'? Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville examine why Leon Bailey's goal for Aston Villa against Sheffield United was disallowed.

How the drama unfolded

Emery had been forced into a couple of changes but made some optional ones too, bringing in Bailey in a more attacking starting line-up. Perhaps the Villa boss anticipated a defensive display from Sheffield United. That is precisely what he got right from the start.

Wilder's team had just 21 per cent of the possession in the first half and no shots. Villa managed six without really troubling Wes Foderingham in goal. It was a case of constant probing and the Villa Park crowd had to be patient as they sought the breakthrough.

Anthony Taylor disallows Aston Villa's goal vs Sheff Utd after being told to review the decision by VAR
Image: Anthony Taylor disallows Leon Bailey's goal against Sheffield United

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Aston Villa's Leon Bailey saw his goal disallowed against Sheffield United

Bailey thought he had found it when he swept home Watkins' centre in the second half but VAR intervened. Checks spotted that Ramsey had a hold of Foderingham near the line. It ramped up the atmosphere but Emery's side became a little ragged.

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Gustavo Hamer, on as a substitute, had an opening on the counter-attack when he seized upon Moussa Diaby's weak pass back to Emiliano Martinez and there were soon groans of frustration. Villa fans could sense the chance to go top slipping away from them.

Martinez was forced into his first save of the game late on - "We've had a shot" chanted the away fans - and Ezri Konsa almost turned Max Lowe's left-wing cross into his own net. Oliver Norwood blazed over. But then came the big moment in the 87th minute.

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Sheffield United's Cameron Archer silences Villa Park with a late strike to give them the lead

Hamer skinned John McGinn on the byline and his low pass into the box found Archer, who calmly slotted in from close range. The Villa academy graduate was booed by sections of the home support when substituted soon after but he had already made his point.

There were opportunities for Villa to make theirs. Foderingham saved well from the head of Alex Moreno and as the clock was about to tick into the 98th minute, Zaniolo's run from out to in saw him latch onto Douglas Luiz's angled ball and nod into the net.

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Nicolo Zaniolo scores dramatic equaliser in added time for Aston Villa against Sheffield United

Fifteen Premier League matches had come and gone at Villa Park with only one team claiming any of the 45 points on offer. Sheffield United thought they had all three of these. They had to settle for one. So, for the first time since February, did Villa. Frustration all round.

Emery proud of his players

"I watched a good game. Two teams trying to play with their idea, not dramatic but we drew," Emery told Sky Sports.

"We've been here, winning a lot of matches. Sometimes we know that can change and today [Friday] it did. But I'm very happy, I'm proud of the players who were here when we were winning and today we drew. We have to accept it and I am happy."

Asked if Villa deserved more, Emery said: "Yes. We scored one goal, had control of the game in the first half, like we prepared. We tried as well to get the ball, we got it.

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Aston Villa manager Unai Emery claimed VAR was overused in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United in the Premier League and suggests the decision to disallow Leon Bailey's goal was incorrect

"We didn't have clear chances because they were defending very well and very deep. We lost control after VAR refused our goal and it upset things, not controlling the game like we were doing and they score."

Regarding Bailey's disallowed goal, one of a series of VAR interruptions, when asked whether that should have been ruled out, Emery said: "No, but I always accept VAR."

He added: "Today, VAR was too much. It was not necessary. To review the action that they reviewed and as well the goal. The goal was the second action and for me, there's no foul. VAR is very important to help the referees, but it's not necessary always."

Wilder: We hung in there

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was critical of the number of VAR incidents

"We're delighted with the result and delighted with the structure of the team. We can't go toe to toe with these clubs at the moment, we've had very little time on the training ground," Wilder told Sky Sports.

"I give the players a lot of credit for taking in the amount of information… we hung in there and felt if there were about a thousand VAR decisions tonight.

"We grew into the game a little bit, we were better in the second half. Hamer and McAtee coming on gave us a little bit more in possession and there you go.

"When you go 1-0 up that deep into the game, you wonder if it's going to be your night, but it isn't. We have to quickly move on."

Neville: We didn't give them a chance

"They would have snapped your hand off before the game for a point and we didn't give them a chance," Gary Neville told Sky Sports of Sheffield United's chances.

"We thought Villa would be comfortable, they both made quite a few changes. I think the goalkeeper made a big mistake on the goal… you've to read the flight of the ball and stay on your line or you're going to go and make it and he doesn't.

"They will be disappointment from the goalkeeper that he made that mistake because it would have been a memorable victory."

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Gary Neville suggests Jhon Duran should have seen red for elbowing Jack Robinson

Carragher: Villa didn't do enough

"Villa didn't do enough to win," Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports.

"They didn't create enough big chances, they had balls into the box but they looked most dangerous from corners.

"I can't remember too many glaring opportunities they missed or saves the goalkeeper made. The stats will all be in their favour, but as Chris Wilder said, it's not their job in some ways to come here and win, it's up to Aston Villa to beat Sheffield United and they didn't do enough."

FPL stats: Aston Villa vs Sheff Utd

Goals Archer, Zaniolo
Assists Hamer, Douglas Luiz
Bonus points Douglas Luiz (3pts), Archer (2pts), Hamer (1pt)

The match in stats

  • Aston Villa failed to win a Premier League home game for the first time since 18th February (2-4 v Arsenal), with this just the second time they had trailed in a league game at Villa Park since then.
  • Aston Villa had 77.6 per cent possession in Friday's game against Sheffield United, their most ever in a Premier League match on record (since 2003-04).
  • Sheffield United didn't attempt a shot in this match until the 78th minute, although they had more attempts (5) than Aston Villa (4) in the final 15 minutes of play.
  • Nicolo Zaniolo's goal (96:59) was the latest equaliser in a Premier League game for Aston Villa on record (since 2006-07).

What's next?

Aston Villa's next game is at Manchester United on Boxing Day; kick-off 8pm. Unai Emery's side then host Burnley on Saturday December 30; kick-off 3pm.

Sheffield United are also in action on Boxing Day, with Luton visiting Bramall Lane; kick-off 3pm. The Blades then travel to Manchester City on Saturday December 30; kick-off 3pm.

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