Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva bewildered by VAR decision to disallow Manchester City goal against Tottenham

Gabriel Jesus' injury-time winner was chalked off after the ball brushed the arm of Aymeric Laporte

“When he did the sign, I didn’t know why,” Kevin de Bruyne said. “Tottenham didn’t know why.” The substituted Bernardo Silva did not know why, either. “At the moment, I celebrated so much the goal that I didn’t even see there was the possibility of a handball,” said the Portuguese.

But handball it was. Tottenham Hotspur escaped. The Manchester City midfielders were twinned in disappointment at the loss of three points. One on the pitch, one on the touchline, both thought Gabriel Jesus had scored an injury-time winner.

When referee Michael Oliver signalled the goal had been chalked off, City had unwanted, unhappy flashbacks. For the second time in four months, VAR had brought them late heartbreak against Tottenham. Their anguish was compounded by the change in rules in the meantime.

Jesus’ goal was disallowed because the ball had flicked off Aymeric Laporte’s arm seconds before. Yet in April, when Fernando Llorente made equally inadvertent contact with his arm, the Spanish striker’s goal stood.

“Last season with a similar situation, we were out of the Champions League,” Silva said. “The ball hits Llorente’s hand and it is a goal. Now it hits Laporte’s hand. It is true the ball hits his hand but come on, you want to cut his arm [off]?”

For De Bruyne, the irritation was all the greater because he felt that, had the ball glanced a Spurs defender’s arm instead of Laporte’s, City would not have been awarded a penalty. But the Belgian argued that Laporte was powerless to prevent it hitting him, with his vision obscured by the proximity of teammate Nicolas Otamendi.

“It’s impossible to take his arm away,” he said, before echoing Silva. “What can he do? should he chop his arm off and play without [it]? There’s nothing he can do because Nico is 10cm in front of him and trying to head the ball. You can’t react in that space and amount of time. Make it clear – handball both sides.”

Where the midfielders differed was in their attitude towards technology. “I like the idea of the VAR,” said Silva; Pep Guardiola, who wanted it to be used in the Premier League last season, is also a fan. De Bruyne is not. “I’m old fashioned, I’m not the biggest pro-VAR,” he said.

If it is changing the game, it may also alter the way players react. “I am starting to get used to it so probably next time I won’t celebrate it,” Silva said. City have suffered from premature celebration. “Last season we celebrated the goal Raz [Raheem Sterling] scored that was disallowed and it is even a bigger frustration.”

That annoyance came in part because City dominated and took a solitary point. They had 30 shots against the Champions League finalists – only the second time Spurs conceded as many since such records were first collated – while Tottenham had just three. “Two,” countered Guardiola, arguing a hopeful Harry Kane effort from the half-way line scarcely counted.

But a defence minus John Stones, who could be out for 10 days with a muscular problem, conceded to both. City let two points slip from their grasp and, after only dropping 16 points last season and only winning the title by one, they are aware the margin for error is limited.

“It is not good to drop two points,” Silva said. “If I remember well, two seasons ago we drew the second game. Last season on the third against Wolves we had a draw.” But that 2017 draw with Everton led to 18 straight wins and Silva vowed: “We will come back stronger.”

Updated: August 19, 2019 12:58 PM

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