Aston Villa boss Dean Smith played down the headbutt incident involving Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi after his players shook hands in the dressing room at half-time.
The main talking point of Villa’s goalless home draw against West Ham came late in the first half when Mings and El Ghazi clashed angrily inside their own penalty area, with the latter clearly pushing his head into his team-mate’s.
El Ghazi could have been sent off but, with referee Mike Dean receiving instruction from the video assistant referee, escaped a red card.
Smith was unmoved by what happened and was more concerned that his team failed to make the most of Arthur Masuaku’s dismissal in the 67th minute, with West Ham the more threatening despite their numerical disadvantage.
“I didn’t need to deal with it, the players dealt with it,” said Smith. “It was dealt with by the players in the dressing room and I’m happy for that to happen, that’s the spirit in the dressing room.
“Things happen in team sport in the heat of the moment and it was sorted very quickly. At half-time they spoke about it, shook hands and we move on.
“What is disappointing is that we played just over 20 minutes against 10 men and couldn’t take advantage of that.
“We lost our structure and made mistakes and at times lost emotional control during that last 20 minutes or so.”
Masuaku, booked in the first half, received a second yellow card for a soft-looking foul on Villa substitute Ahmed Elmohamady.
Thereafter, Villa failed to really worry West Ham, instead inviting pressure on themselves through individual errors and silly fouls inside their own final third.
Villa should have been dominating and probing for a winning goal but the game had become end to end and frenetic.
West Ham put Villa under pressure late on, with the hosts often leaving themselves two against two at the back, and in the end it was Smith’s side who survived.
Manuel Pellegrini, on his 66th birthday, questioned the recd card for Masuaku.
“It’s a typical second yellow card when you play away,” he said. “It is easy to try to simulate a foul and try to get the fans to put pressure on – they tried it with Mark Noble in the first half.
“We spoke about it at half-time, to try to avoid getting a second yellow card. But I don’t think in normal play for a home team that would be a yellow card.
“Overall, I was very happy with our performance. We came here from the first minute to try to win the game, but unfortunately we had to play part of the game with one player less.
“But the attitude was always to try to score right up until the final minute. We couldn’t do it, but if you can’t win then you must draw. We continue to progress.”
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