Aston Villa duo Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi were involved in a furious clash and West Ham United defender Arthur Masuaku was sent off in a separate incident during Monday’s fiery 0-0 draw.
Mings and El Ghazi lost their cool in the first half at Villa Park and had to be dragged away by teammates after West Ham nearly took the lead.
The pair escaped punishment for their row, but Masuaku was not so fortunate as he saw red for a second booking after halftime.
Villa were unable to make their numerical advantage pay off and had to settle for a stalemate that left the spotlight on the bust-up between Mings and El Ghazi.
Villa defender Mings had blocked a cross that he felt Dutch midfielder El Ghazi allowed to come in too easily.
El Ghazi was angry enough with the criticism to brush his head against Mings’ forehead as the pair went face to face.
They were pulled away by teammates, but stood glaring at each other inside the penalty area as Mings pointed an accusing finger at El Ghazi.
Referee Mike Dean urged them to calm down after consulting the video assistant referee to check that there was not a red card offence and play eventually resumed with Villa manager Dean Smith wearing a bemused expression on the touchline.
Smith said the row did not cause a rift in the squad and claimed it was quickly resolved by his players.
“That’s a heat-of-the-moment thing. I didn’t even talk to them at halftime. It had already been sorted,” Smith said. “I expect players to look after themselves and take responsibility. There’s a limit — you can’t step over. There’s a really good leadership group. They looked after it themselves.”
West Ham remain unbeaten since being thrashed by Manchester City in the opening game of the season and their refusal to surrender after the red card was a welcome birthday present for boss Manuel Pellegrini, who turned 66 on Monday.
“We played with 10 men exactly the same as 11. I’m very happy with the personality and performance,” Pellegrini said. “If you cannot win, don’t lose it. We did a complete game.”
Villa thought that they had taken the lead when John McGinn curled into the top corner, but the midfielder’s effort was ruled out for his foul on Angelo Ogbonna.
They went close again when Jack Grealish’s cross picked out Wesley, but the Brazilian striker headed over.
Sebastien Haller had scored three times in three games for West Ham since his close-season move from Eintracht Frankfurt.
However, the French striker was off-target with a misjudged header from Felipe Anderson’s cross.
West Ham midfielder Mark Noble was jeered by Villa fans after escaping a second booking for what looked a dive in a failed bid to win a penalty.
Mings and El Ghazi’s clash underlined Villa’s frustration at failing to put West Ham on the back foot.
There was more angst for El Ghazi moments later when he went up to challenge for a cross and was flattened by West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Both Mings and El Ghazi remained on after halftime and the Dutchman’s powerful effort forced Fabianski to save as Villa pressed for the opening goal.
West Ham were reduced to 10 men in the 67th minute when Masuaku was sent off for a second booking after clipping Ahmed El Mohamady.
For all Villa’s territorial dominance in the closing stages, they could not find a winner.
Grealish was unable to connect with a close-range volley from Douglas Luiz’s cross, while West Ham’s Ryan Fredericks appealed for a penalty after clashing with Mings.
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