A dramatic late VAR decision once again denied Manchester City victory against Tottenham Hotspur, after Gabriel Jesus’s 91st minute strike was chalked off well after City celebrations.
Jesus thought he had scored a late winner to secure all three points for the Champions, but replays showed the ball had struck Aymeric Laporte’s arm prior to the Brazilian finding the net and the game finished 2-2.
Raheem Sterling had given the home side the lead, nodding in his fourth goal of the campaign on 20 minutes, before Erik Lamela equalized for Spurs three minutes later against the run of play.
Sergio Aguero diverted the excellent Kevin De Bruyne’s near-post cross in to give Pep Guardiola’s side the lead going into the break, with City looking more and more dominant.
As the game reached the hour mark Mauricio Pochettino shuffled his side, bringing on the dynamic Lucas Moura in place of Harry Winks.
And the Brazilian made an immediate impact, heading home Lamela’s corner with his first touch just 19 seconds after coming on.
But it was VAR who had the last say, ruling out Jesus’s strike and once again thwarting Guardiola’s match up with Pochettino after a late Sterling strike in last season’s Champions League quarter-final was similarly disallowed.
Dominant City fail to punish Spurs
While the scoreline might suggest the game ebbed and flowed, the reality is there was only one side on the front foot creating chances.
The blistering pace and creativity in Manchester City’s starting line up frequently broke the Spurs backline, but couldn’t convert that dominance into the glut of goals we’ve become so accustomed to seeing.
When Sterling ghosted in at the back post to head home smartly from a sensational De Bruyne cross, the dams were expected to burst.
But it was Tottenham who struck next, Lamela given too much time and space 25 yards out to stride forward and send a curling left-footed shot past Ederson, who looked out of position.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 17, 2019
Back came the Champions though, the always reliable De Bruyne again turning provider ten minutes before the break as his low cross was converted at the near post by Sergio Aguero.
The second period was more of the same, City dominating possession and creating chance after chance but couldn’t stretch their lead through a combination of sturdy Tottenham defending and wasteful finishing.
Realising his side needed more pace to relieve the pressure, Spurs boss Pochettino replaced Harry Winks with Lucas Moura.
The Brazilian rose above his marker to head in Lamela’s inswinging corner: it was Moura’s first touch and only the second shot on target for the North London club.
VAR lightning strikes twice
Two shots, two goals. The same could not be said for Guardiola’s side. A whopping 30 chances created but the scores remained level.
Gabriel Jesus replaced Aguero after the hour, with the Argentinian visibly upset at being replaced. He fired a look and few words at his manager as he left the pitch, but Guardiola downplayed the incident after the game.
Deep into injury time it looked like Guardiola’s decision had paid off. Gabriel Jesus pounced onto a loose ball inside the Spurs box, kept his composure and curled a shot through a crowd of players into the bottom corner.
Cue mass celebrations in the Etihad: a manager skipping down the touchline, players barking their joy down the television cameras, and the sky blue fans delirious in the stands.
Then referee Michael Oliver put his finger to his ear. Déjà vu.
Back in April Raheem Sterling thought he had sent City through to the Champions League semi-finals only for VAR to intervene and correctly rule out the goal for offside.
Laporte/Jesus decision is right under the new handball law but feels so wrong for the sport. Rule looks designed by a robot. Spurs fans will, of course, disagree as they celebrate a good point. Broader issue is that this rule robs the game of some of its naturalness & joy #MCITOT
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) August 17, 2019
Guardiola dropped to his knees in disbelief, and the impact was doubly bewildering as Tottenham once again benefitted from a late VAR call at the Etihad Stadium.
Replays showed the ball glanced off Aymeric Laporte’s arm before finding the way through to Jesus, and under Law 12 the goal was rightly ruled out.
While some fans and pundits found the decision harsh, the new rule states that there can be no goal if the ball strikes the arm or hand of an attacking player in the build up, regardless of intent.
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