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John McGinn red card: An ‘ugly, cynical, horrific challenge’ – but was it a sending off?

John McGinn tackles Destiny Udogie/John McGinn red card: An 'ugly, cynical, horrific challenge' – but was it a sending off?

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery admitted he was “disappointed” with John McGinn’s straight red card for a crude challenge on Destiny Udogie but insisted he did not intend to injure the Tottenham defender.

Villa are set to be without captain McGinn for their next three Premier League matches following his 65th-minute dismissal in the top-four shootout, which could have a damaging impact on their season. With the home team 2-0 down after goals from James Maddison and Brennan Johnson, McGinn went in late on Udogie to spark confrontations between the players and coaching staff.

The Scotland international’s foul was clearly borne out of frustration and he was instantly shown the red card by referee Chris Kavanagh. Head coach Emery did at least defend the midfielder by insisting he did not intend to injure Udogie, in what was the first red card of his Villa career.

“We lost control of our emotions and the red card was disappointing for me,” he said. “Of course John McGinn is always very, very important. He wishes to compete after the second goal, but then [after the sending off] the match was difficult to come back.

“I think John McGinn is always playing with passion. It’s his second red card I think in 600 matches. I think he’s always honest and very competitive. He’s not a player doing things with bad intentions.”

Aston Villa's John McGinn (right) is confronted by Tottenham Hotspur players after his tackle on Destiny Udogie
Aston Villa's John McGinn (right) is confronted by Tottenham Hotspur players with Destiny Udogie still on the ground - PA/Nick Potts
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery steps in to try and calm down matters
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery steps in to try and calm down matters - Getty Images/Alex Pantling

McGinn has been a key player for Emery this season and if the club opt not to appeal, he will miss Premier League matches against West Ham, Wolves and Manchester City. Udogie required treatment from Tottenham’s medical staff before the game continued.

Ange Postecoglou, the Tottenham head coach, claimed it was not a pivotal moment in the match.

“It made the game a little bit easier for us in terms of territory but I thought we were well in the ascendancy,” he said. “It was a by-product from the pressure we were putting on. I don’t think John meant any malice by it, it was frustration more than anything else. I don’t think it changed the game, I think we were well in control.”

McGinn eventually leaves the pitch following his red card
McGinn eventually leaves the pitch following his red card - Getty Images/Catherine Ivill

Speaking on BBC 5Live, current Leicester City and England defender Conor Coady said he would have been unhappy to see a team-mate sent off for such a challenge, but sympathised with the reaction from the Tottenham bench.

“He is trying to stop the counter attack, we have all been there but he has obviously gone in a bit too hard,” Coady said.

“I’d be gutted seeing my team-mate being sent off for that but at the same time I do understand the reaction from the Tottenham bench and players’ reaction because it was a real, strong challenge from McGinn.

“McGinn was the one who was driving Aston Villa. He was absolutely driving Aston Villa. He was somebody who was really pushing them in this second half trying to get them on the front foot. To see the captain go off and see one of the main players go off is really disappointing for Villa.”

However, the tackle was condemned by Sky Sports pair Don Goodman and Jamie O’Hara.

“It’s ugly, it’s cynical, it’s a horrible tackle,” said former Wolves defender Goodman. “Is it dangerous? It’s open to interpretation.”

O’Hara added: “It was 100 per cent a red. McGinn lost his head.”

A ‘head-loss moment’ from McGinn but referee showed excellent officiating

The law was correctly upheld by referee Chris Kavanagh this afternoon when he rightly held high the red card to dismiss John McGinn of Aston Villa.

The Villa captain’s challenge was a clear act of Serious Foul Play, as the law states ‘a tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play’, with McGinn quite rightly sent off.

McGinn was clearly frustrated and it was a head-loss moment where, having lost possession in a good attacking position and sensing a counter-attack, McGinn took what he felt was necessary-yet-cynical action into his own hands to stop Tottenham’s Udogie.

McGinn is the sort of player who gets involved in those type of moments, but he was extremely lucky because the damage to Udogie could have been a lot worse. The soft ground did the Tottenham player a favour as his studs did not stick in the turf at the point of contact, and nor did he over-react.

I was particularly impressed by Kavanagh’s calm response. He did not immediately brandish a red card and potentially create a bit of heat in the moment. Instead, he calmed down the confrontation of players and bought himself time to replay what he had seen in his own head, decide on the right response and then issue the card. It was excellent officiating.

We also saw the Var Tim Robinson - by taking no action - support Kavanagh’s decision. McGinn and the Villa supporters who applauded him off the pitch can have no complaints.

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