Referee steals Henry's thunder


It is one of football's favourite cliches, much loved by struggling managers, that no one is relegated by Christmas. After embarrassing himself again on Saturday, referee Rob Harris could discover the saying does not hold true in his case.

The Oxford official extended his impressive list of recent cockups by somehow forgetting he had booked Aston Villa's Lee Hendrie twice and is now in serious danger of being demoted from the panel of Premier League referees when it is reassessed at the end of next month.

Harris was removed from the list for a month at the start of the year for allowing Tranmere to substitute a player he had sent off against Sunderland in the FA Cup. But this is the first time mid-season relegation has been introduced and he can hardly be confident of survival.

A year ago he wrongly dismissed Liverpool's Steve Staunton, ironically against Villa, for encroaching at a free-kick. At Tottenham in April he was at the centre of more controversy involving John Gregory's side when he missed a penalty for handball, spotted by his assistant, and seemed ready to send off Stephen Clemence for an offence he had not committed.

Harris' sideshow stole some of the limelight from Thierry Henry, who scored another spectacular winner to put Arsenal level at the top with Manchester United.

Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Grimandi, Silvinho, Parlour, Lauren, Vieira, Bergkamp (Luzhny 85), Henry (Wiltord 77), Pires (Kanu 81). Subs Not Used: Keown, Lukic. Booked: Henry. Goals: Henry 61.

Aston Villa: James, Wright (Vassell 71), Southgate, Alpay, Barry, Hendrie, Stone, Taylor, Dublin (Boateng 70), Merson, Joachim. Subs Not Used: Ehiogu, De Bilde, Enckelman. Sent Off: Hendrie (66). Booked: Southgate, Hendrie, Stone.

Referee: R Harris (Oxford).