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Jamie Carragher did not hold back in his assessment of Luke Ayling’s heavy challenge that earned the Leeds United man a straight red card in the first half of Sunday’s match against Arsenal. The 30-year-old was responsible for a full-blooded lunge on Gabriel Martinelli shortly after Eddie Nketiah’s early brace saw the visitors fall behind and was sent off by referee Chris Kavanagh after a lengthy VAR intervention at the Emirates Stadium.
Ayling was initially awarded a yellow card before VAR intervened to prompt Kavanagh to take another look and upgrade his original punishment to an immediate dismissal in spite of the protests from the defender’s Leeds team-mates. Carragher went on to insist in no uncertain terms that Ayling should have known better than to let his team down in such a manner before suggesting that he may never play another Premier League match again if the Whites are relegated at the end of the season.
“I love Luke Ayling as a player, but what an idiot,” said Carragher in his role as a pundit on Sky Sports.
“The lack of professionalism for his own teammates and what that could mean going forward. It’s not just down to 10 men. Disgusting tackle, coming in two feet there.
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“It reminds me of a tackle Vinnie Jones did a long time ago, I think maybe Danny Stevens. What he thinks was going to happen on the back of that, it was obvious. That’s a big plus point for VAR, one of the reasons why we have it.
“But to do that, put your team-mates down to 10 men, and you miss the rest of the season. That might be the last ever game Ayling ever plays in the Premier League.”
Ayling will receive an automatic three-match ban as a result of his sending-off in north London and is now set to miss the rest of the season for Leeds, who are still trying to stave off the threat of Premier League relegation. The Yorkshire outfit currently find themselves in the drop zone but sit level on points with 17th-placed Burnley, who are only ahead of Jesse Marsch’s side on goal difference.
Leeds went behind within the opening five minutes against Arsenal, with Nketiah capitalising on a horrible mistake from Illan Meslier to poke the ball home from close range. The Gunners forward went on to double up shortly afterwards when he latched onto Martinelli’s inviting cross to find the back of the net with a well-placed effort from inside the area.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Leeds will be able to pull themselves out of danger in the absence of Ayling between now and the end of the campaign as they look to secure top-flight survival at the expense of Burnley or Everton. The Yorkshire outfit will host Chelsea in their next outing on Wednesday before taking on Brighton and Hove Albion and later Brentford on the final day of the season.
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