Smith defends Grealish and questions officials after Villa lose to Palace

Dean Smith criticised the officials for ruling out what he considered to be a “perfectly good” last-gasp equaliser as 10-man Aston Villa were beaten at Crystal Palace.

After securing a rare victory at Manchester United last weekend, the Eagles had just about enough to win as Jordan Ayew’s second-half strike secured a 1-0 win against a Villa side who played with a man short for over half an hour following the dismissal of Trezeguet.

The visitors thought they had rescued a late point as substitute Henri Lansbury smashed home but referee Kevin Friend pulled play back and booked indignant Villa captain Jack Grealish for simulation.

It was unclear whether or not Friend had consulted the video assistant referee before blowing his whistle but the goal was chalked off and Villa were denied their equaliser.

Smith, whose named the same starting line-up that beat Everton last week, felt the goal should have stood and defended Grealish against accusations of simulation.

“(It was a) good goal,” he said. “I think everyone else’s view was good goal.

“No one could understand why it wasn’t given. I spoke in the week about VAR and subjective decisions but that system is meant to right wrongs.

“I wondered what I’d be like when that system went against me. He got a nudge from (Wilfried) Zaha in the back. As he offloads it, (Gary) Cahill comes into the tackle as well. Simulation? No chance.

“Someone just put to me that his reputation may precede him. Well, he was the most fouled player in the Championship last season for a reason. He may be in this league as well. A perfectly good goal for me.

“I’ll probably get some waffle about the reasons, but it was a poor decision. I believe any goal that is scored goes to VAR. I don’t know whether it did or not.

“For me, I didn’t understand the officials’ decision-making today.

“If you’re Jack Grealish, I’d be raging. He’s having his integrity questioned. He’s made a great run, laid it off for Henri Lansbury to score.

“He’s had his integrity questioned not only by the officials here, but in Stockley Park as well. Jack wasn’t even looking for a foul.”

Palace created the better chances but were once again toiling to find a breakthrough at home before Ayew added to his effort against Manchester United to tuck away the deciding goal in the 73rd minute.

Eagles boss Roy Hodgson was not happy that a win was overshadowed by the late drama and insisted he had no interest if it was the correct decision or not.

“No idea, and I don’t really care,” he replied when asked if the decision had gone to VAR.

“Of course there’s controversy. I’m very dissatisfied, really, that such a good performance for 70-76 minutes where we really took the game to them and camped in their half…

“I lost count of the number of balls we put into the box, but all of a sudden it’s been reduced to whether the final decision was right or wrong.

“I accept his decision 100 per cent. I’m happy that he didn’t make another decision, of course, because it would have been a bitter blow to lose two points in the last minute when we could have been so far out of sight.”

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