March 29, 2020
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PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG rescued ten-man Arsenal against Aston Villa but they were lucky not to concede a penalty to give the away side the chance to snatch a draw late on  Goals from John McGinn and Wesley Moraes had twice put Dean Smith’s side in front at the Emirates before a second-half fightback from the Gunners  Nicolas Pepe sealed his first strike for his new club from the spot before late efforts from Callum Chambers and Aubameyang earned Unai Emery the win  However, they were aided by a fortunate decision not to penalise mishap defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos for a handball in the dying minutes  The Greek centre-back moved his body to block Conor Hourihane’s goalbound shot with the ball appearing to strike his arm before ricocheting away  Referee Jon Moss failed to award Villa a penalty and Danny Murphy criticised the decision not to check with VAR  Speaking on Match of the Day, he said: “This is as blatant as I’ve ever seen as a handball that hasn’t been overturned  “There’s an obvious movement, it’s eight yards away so it’s not exactly close.  “It’s an obvious movement away from his body  “It’s absolutely ridiculous how anyone can say that’s not a penalty.”  Fellow pundit Alan Shearer agreed, saying: “I agree, he actually moves his arm out towards the ball  “It’s not behind him, he’s not trying to get it out of his way.  “You can see it clearly, he’s actually leaning out to push his arm towards it ”  Villa fans were clearly in agreement, with one tweeting: “What is the actual point in having VAR? Scrap it It is f****** useless.  Another said: “How is this different to the CL final penalty? That’s right this one looks like it was heading in for a goal And still not a penalty.”  A third added: “What can we say? Questions need to be asked and quickly He isn’t close to him so that’s not an excuse and then he’s moved his arm towards the ball  “People will start questioning the integrity of the game if this carries on.”  Sokratis has endured a difficult start to the season with Arsenal, with the defender already making headlines for “butt-megging” against Villa  A week after apologising for a costly blunder against Watford, the 31-year-old bizarrely wriggled his head around between Wesley’s knees, before rolling about clutching his head Arsenal boss Unai Emery admits that Mesut Ozil needs a rest, despite playing just 71 minutes so far this season

David Frank