Aston Villa and Alisha Lehmann could be in trouble following their impressive 7-0 victory over Sunderland in the Conti Cup, as they now face potential consequences for illegal fielding, reported by GOAL. The trouble stems from January signing Noelle Maritz, who came on as a substitute during the match, but is deemed ineligible under Conti Cup rule 8.14.
Maritz's previous appearances for Arsenal in the same competition, including a crucial penalty shoot-out victory over Tottenham Hotspur, make her cup-tied. If found guilty of breaching the rules, Villa risks having the match result overturned and could be referred to an independent tribunal, which holds the authority to award the victory to the opposition.
The Football Association is currently investigating the incident, guided by the rules that state any club playing an ineligible player in a cup match shall be referred to an independent tribunal for determination. The tribunal may order the match to be awarded to the opposition or make other decisions as deemed fit.
The situation is complicated by the potential impact on overall standings. If Sunderland gains three points due to the match being overturned, they would accumulate 10 points, surpassing Manchester United. Further complications arise if Tottenham Hotspur, currently on seven points, secures a victory over Southampton, leading to multiple teams with 10 points. In this scenario, Villa, even with points deducted, would finish higher than United, knocking them out of the competition.
What's next for Alisha Lehmann's Aston Villa?
This incident draws parallels to a violation a decade ago when Reading faced expulsion from the competition. While Villa is yet to comment on the matter, they could face a fate similar to Reading pending the conclusion of the FA investigation. Despite the potential setback, Villa aims to focus on their upcoming WSL clash against United on Sunday, looking to put the incident behind them and secure three points.