‘Definitely not’ - fans wade in on West Ham bust-up debate to condemn ‘aggressive’ Aston Villa defender

Aston Villa defender Sarah Mayling was still on the pitch as the referee blew her whistle on Villa v West Ham United on Saturday afternoon - but many fans felt she shouldn’t have been.

The 25-year-old was at the heart of a controversial injury-time incident which formed the climax of a rip-roaring afternoon of Women’s Super League action at the Bescot Stadium in Walsall.

After a week in which Villa boss Carla Ward was dubbed WSL manager of the month and star striker Rachel Daly picked up the WSL player of the month of the award, spirits were high in the Villa camp as they sought a third successive league win against a West Ham United team who had suffered two defeats on the bounce.

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But the game got off to a tricky start for Ward’s side as Dagny Brynjarsdóttir headed home a West Ham corner just two minutes into the clash before Japan international Honoka Hayashi doubled the visitors’ lead inside fifteen minutes.

After a tough first half, Villa began to assert themselves after the break before Alisha Lehmann squandered a golden chance to cut the deficit in the 74th minute as her weak penalty was saved by Hammers’ shot-stopper Mackenzie Arnold.

Substitute Kenza Dali stepped in to save Lehmann’s blushes by netting Villa’s first goal of the game just minutes after the spot-kick miss, setting up an exhilerating final ten minutes as the home side fought desperately to equalise.

With the two teams locking horns in the struggle for WSL points, tempers flared in injury time as Mayling attempted to stop West Ham defender Hawa Cissoko from progressing with the ball.

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In the ensuing coming-together, referee Cheryl Foster showed Cissoko a straight red card after the French defender appeared to strike Mayling’s face - her third red card means that no player in WSL history has been sent off more times.

In the following six minutes of added time, Villa couldn’t capitalise on their additional player advantage and Ward’s side fell to their first league defeat of the season.

But the controversy subsequently sparked debate online as WSL fans felt Mayling should also have faced consequences for provoking Cissoko:

@AlexJanePereira: Do feel a bit sorry for Cissoko here. Yes, she was baited by Mayling, who isn’t innocent here either and she kept going back for more. They both should’ve been sent off, but harsh to send just Cissoko off in my opinion.

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@Awfcmiedema: Considering it was blows to the head I can understand the ref not having much choice but to send Cissoko off, but how did Mayling not get a booking at the very least?

@Walkerita: Cissoko reacted violently and the red card isn’t questioned, but she was fouled, faced the first time with a push, faced a second time with another push, she was constantly provoked and only then she reacted. She isn’t the only one to blame here.

@Miedemaftevans: Cissoko DEFINITELY wasn’t innocent in that but, let’s be real, neither was Mayling. She’s the one that went back in for more and aggravated Cissoko even further.

@YvetteSpendiin: She came at Cissoko first, no?

@Tdriscool: Both players were equally at fault. Mayling showing the initial aggression and Cissoko reacting. Either two reds or two yellows. Definitely not one red and nothing for the other.

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@Lankshoek: Cissoko was right to defend herself. Sarah Mayling already pushed her hard and was agressively running to her. Cissoko was right to punch her attacker in the face.

@DanielleLampton: The mild but accurate take: Sure, Cissoko earned a red card. And if a player fouls you and you push them as they walk away? You’re probably going to get punched. It’s not a ban, not worthy of a fine, it’s just a red card and a walkout.

@Bex292: The more I watch the clip from the game the more I feel Cissoko is being treated harshly by social media. She definitely doesn’t punch her, and Mayling is pushing her and provoking her, both should have been sent off.

@__if3oluwa: Both ought to have been sent off but Cissoko should be getting a long term ban afterwards.

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@NIGGraha: Cissoko needs to receive extra games to her suspension, the manager also should face a ban & hopefully West Ham receive a fine. This behaviour is absolutely shameful.

@CraigHadlee: That’s crazy from Cissoko. Mayling baited her into it but that’s full force palm strikes to the head.

@Zadraball: Okay but why didn’t the Villa player also get a red? She just kept getting in Cissoko’s face.

@_Moses99: When FA is penalizing Cissoko, they should for Mayling too. She forced a retaliation from Cissoko after the shove off by going after her again.

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@Bluppy89: Both should be a red card. Mayling would have gotten the first card if Cissoko’s reaction wasn’t fast.

@TBG49972762: Why on earth would you run at Cissoko like THAT? She was only defending herself in my opinion.

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