Scharner Shuts Up Shop

Last updated : 31 January 2009 By Tom Vickers
It was like Arsenal on Boxing Day all over again, only this time there were no goals.

For 45 second half minutes Villa battered Wigan into submission and hit everything but the back of the net, resulting in a frustrating draw at Villa Park.

Gabby Agbonlahor and Zat Knight both saw efforts rebound back off the frame of the charmed Latics goal.

And, even more frustratingly, Paul Scharner managed to clear efforts from John Carew, and Luke Young off the line.

Incidentally, Carew, who replaced Craig Gardner in the second half, was making his first appearance since sustaining an injury against Manchester United in November.

Emile Heskey was making his home debut after joining from Wigan for £3.5m just a week previously.

The first half was typical of the Claret and Blue as they eased their way into affairs, knowing they would go joint top of the Premier League with a win.


Gareth Barry pushed the ball around elegantly and Stiliyn Petrov was immaculate as ever but Wigan held firm in an opening period which produced little action of note.

What goalmouth incident there was seemed to go the way of the visitors as Brad Friedel kept out efforts from Daniel De Ridder and Maynor Figueroa.
After the break it was an all together different story as Villa went in search of a vital victory.

Zat Knight was first to try and force the ball over the line as his downward header drifted agonizingly onto Chris Kirkland's left hand post.

The rebound dropped to Knight's defensive partner Curtis Davies, who fired the ball back in only to see a barrage of bodies block his effort.

Next to test the luck of Steve Bruce's men was Agbonlahor, who fired over after a neat turn and then moments later headed against the post.

Another goalmouth melee ensued but again no Villa player could find the net as Wigan again cleared off the line.

Stress levels at Villa Park were at an all time high by this point and more frustration was yet to come for the Claret and Blue faithful.


Scharner, the Austrian defender who is rumoured to be a target for the Villans, somehow manage to clear from under his own bar twice in quick succession after Villa were given an indirect free-kick in the box following a back pass.

James Milner rolled the ball into the path of Carew and Scharner dived to block the shot. The ball then fell to Young on the edge of the box, who volleyed the ball back in with venom but Scharner again stopped the ball in amazing fashion.

What made Scharner's clearance all the more spectacular was the fact that Young's effort took a late deflection before it reached him.

The Austrian may look like a languid computer geek with shorts pulled up over his midriff but he saved his side from almost certain defeat with two moments of defensive brilliance.

Villa continued to press but couldn't find a way through and Wigan almost won it late on as Ben Watson fired over the bar when presented with a good opportunity.

The point puts Villa level second with Chelsea and Liverpool, who clash tomorrow, but it could have been all so different had the Claret and Blue taken their chances.

Some may say that Villa have had enough luck of late, especially away from home, but winning when you're not playing well is the hallmark of Champions. Unfortunately, not winning when you play you're opponents off the park is not.