EPL

Gary O’Neil plays down tension after Unai Emery walks away before handshake

By Sports Desk October 08, 2023

Wolves boss Gary O’Neil defused any tension after Unai Emery left without a handshake.

The Aston Villa manager walked down the tunnel after Sunday’s 1-1 draw while O’Neil spoke to the fourth official at full time.

Pau Torres had quickly cancelled out Hwang Hee-Chan’s second-half opener as Villa missed the chance to move into the Premier League’s top four.

Ollie Watkins hit the post with the last touch of the game after Mario Lemina was dismissed in stoppage time for a second caution.

They remain fifth after a scrappy derby at Molineux while Wolves built on their 2-1 victory at Manchester City last week and O’Neil dismissed any issue with Emery.

He said: “It was a lot of nothing, I was moaning at the fourth about playing 114 minutes and Unai didn’t want to wait for the handshake so he went to walk down the tunnel. I just said: ‘No problem, go down the tunnel’.

“I’ve waited ages for people (managers in the past), I understand that they want to talk with the fourth official.

“My conversation with the fourth official was about eight seconds long so he wouldn’t have had to wait very long. But I understand if he doesn’t want to, no problem. I’ve got no problem with Unai at all.

“I thought we edged it 11 v 11, apart from the start but a point is fairish I’d suggest. We looked comfortable, there wasn’t a huge gap between the sides.

“Eight points is not a bad return, we’re managing to score goals and trying to improve.”

Rayan Ait-Nouri steered Wolves’ best first-half chance wide and Jose Sa needed to be alert to divert Watkins’ effort over soon after the break.

But Wolves struck first after 53 minutes when Neto’s pace took him past Torres to cross for Hwang to net his sixth goal of the season.

The lead lasted just two minutes as Torres netted his first Villa goal when he turned in Watkins’ cross at the far post after Wolves were unable to clear Douglas Luiz’s free kick.

With 12 minutes left Neto should have settled the game when Sasa Kalajdzic’s excellent cross found Wolves’ star man only for him to blaze over from 10 yards.

Wolves then had to navigate eight of the 12 minutes of stoppage time with 10 men after Lemina was dismissed, earning a second yellow card for a tug on Nicolo Zaniolo.

And Villa nearly cashed in with the last touch of the game when Watkins thumped the base of the post.

Victory would have lifted Villa into the Champions League spots, after Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Brighton.

“It’s a derby and we felt it on the pitch. There are a lot of supporters with us, they are pushing, it was a great atmosphere,” said Emery, who also called leaving without a handshake ‘nothing’.

“We tried to focus on the match. We reacted to the goal very quickly, it was key, and in 11 v 11 we created more chances but they had some very good transitions and chances.

“When they had a red card it was the moment where we tried to get the advantage.

“We are ambitious and very demanding. The first half we started very well but we lost a bit of control. We weren’t controlling the game and at that moment I was frustrated and upset.”

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