Richard Dunne scored an unfortunate stoppage-time own goal as 10-man Queens Park Rangers snatched a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday.
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The Ireland defender deflected an attempted clearance by teammate Stephen Warnock into his own net in the third minute of second-half injury time, denying Villa a win that would have lifted the team into fifth place.
It was a Premier League-record ninth own goal of Dunne’s career and marred an otherwise impressive display by the former Manchester City center back.
Cheered on by a famous fan of the club – British Prime Minister David Cameron – Villa went ahead in the 58th minute at Loftus Road through a disputed penalty converted by Scotland midfielder Barry Bannan, after Armand Traore was adjudged to have tugged Gabriel Agbonlahor’s shirt as the striker attempted to meet a cross by Warnock.
Traore’s day went from bad to worse in the 89th minute when the former Arsenal left back was dismissed after picking up a second booking for a crude challenge on substitute Marc Albrighton but Villa couldn’t hold on in a frantic finale.
With QPR denied what appeared to be a clear penalty when Shaun Derry’s header was blocked on the line by Villa right back Alan Hutton’s arm in the 71st, the post-match spotlight inevitably fell on 26-year-old referee Mike Oliver.
”You have got to ask certain questions of him,” QPR manager Neil Warnock said of the Premier League’s youngest ever referee.
”For their penalty, not one Aston Villa supporter appealed. Referees should be seen and not heard and the official made it all about him today, which is a shame because he took away from what was a good performance from us. The two major decisions went against us today.”
Warnock was just as scathing about Traore following the defender’s reckless late challenge.
”I thought it was a disgrace and I will be fining him as much as I can,” Warnock said.
The draw puts both teams on eight points and leaves Villa as one of four teams yet to be defeated in the league this season, along with Manchester United, Manchester City and Newcastle.
Villa manager Alex McLeish, who was in no doubt about the legitimacy of his team’s penalty, said he was heavily critical of his players at halftime after a poor first-half display which QPR didn’t capitalize on.
”We were woeful in the first half,” McLeish said. ”It wasn’t an Aston Villa performance.
”But in the end, we should never be losing the game in those circumstances. I’m gutted we threw it away.”
QPR, which has lost just one game since the club was taken over by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes on Aug. 18, failed to reproduce the kind of football that demolished Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 last weekend – a win that Warnock labeled his best in 31 years as a manager.
But the London side outplayed a subdued Villa in a one-sided first half, with Morocco winger Adel Taarabt striking the post from 30 yards (meters) and Jay Bothroyd glancing a Joey Barton cross wide in the best of the team’s chances.
Off the pace and hardly able to string two passes together in the first half, Villa improved markedly after the break.
”I had to tell my players a few home truths at halftime,” McLeish said.
After winger Charles N’Zogbia clipped a great chance just wide in the 54th, Villa took the lead through Bannan and should have gone 2-0 up when Agbonlahor skewed a left-foot shot wide from 10 yards.
That kept QPR in the game and despite being denied a couple of penalty shouts and then being reduced to 10 men, the hosts managed to claim a deserved point when Heidar Helguson’s cross caused panic in Villa’s six-yard box and the ball ricocheted in off Dunne.
”I thought we were absolutely fabulous to claw ourselves right to the end,” Warnock said.