In April, 2005, why did Newcastle United finish a Premier League match with eight players?

The Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James’s Park on Saturday, April 2, 2005 will live long in the memory of anyone who witnessed it, mainly because of two farcical incidents. The hosts fell behind after just fve minutes when Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel took advantage of a weak defensive header by Jermaine Jenas to score with a low shot from inside the penalty area.

The scoreline remained 0-1 at half-time but, well inside the final quarter, Darius Vassel dispossessed Nicky Butt inside the United half and rounded out-of-position goalkeeper Shay Given, only for his goal-bound shot to be blocked by the left hand of the last defender, Steven Taylor. Comically, Taylor threw himself to the ground, clutching his side, in an effort to hoodwink referee Barry Knight, but was immediately sent off for deliberate handball. Gareth Barry put Villa 2-0 ahead from the penalty spot and, seven minutes later, made it 3-0 after United defender Stephen Carr bodychecked Vassell on the edge of the penalty area.

To add insult to injury, with 10 minutes or so of normal time remaining, Newcastle midfielder Lee Bowyer confronted teammate Kieron Dyer about his failure to pass the ball and Dyer reportedly responded by saying, ‘…because you’re sh*t, basically’. Astonishingly, as play continued around them, Bowyer pushed his head in to Dyer’s face, and the pair traded blows until players from both sides intervened to break up the scuffle. Less surprisingly, both players were dismissed for violent conduct, such they were banned for three matches, including the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United two weeks later, which Newcastle lost 4-1.

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