Manchester City got back to winning ways on Sunday with Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne on target in the second half as Pep Guardiola’s side beat Sheffield United 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium in a Premier League game which saw yet more VAR controversy.
It was another impressive performance from Chris Wilder’s promoted side, who were unbeaten away in the league, but in the end third-placed City’s sharpness in front of goal was decisive as Guardiola picked up his milestone 100th Premier League win.
His century was achieved in 134 games, a Premier League record that bettered Jose Mourinho’s 100 in 142 games.
United began strongly and looked to have grabbed the lead through Lys Mousett in the 28th minute but the goal was ruled out after a VAR review found the slimmest offside margin.
Moments later both sets of supporters expressed their opposition to the VAR system in a loud, united chant.
“Yet again we had another goal disallowed by VAR, that’s about eight or nine over the weekend, this is not a situation helping the game with the small margins,” said Wilder.
“But I will leave that for everyone else to talk about because I have said too much about it.”
Third-placed City, beaten 3-2 by Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday and now still 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, finally went ahead in the 52nd minute through Aguero, who blasted the ball home after being slipped in by De Bruyne.
The United players argued furiously that the ball had struck referee Chris Kavanagh during the build-up and a drop ball should have been called but after a brief review the goal stood.
The images suggested Kavanagh merely obstructed a United player rather than made contact with the ball but Wilder said commonsense should have been used.
“We talk about the new rule where if the referee touches the ball then he has to blow up, so surely if he is in the way and hinders us then he makes a sensible decision,” said Wilder, whose side are eighth on 29 points after 20 games.
“If he made the sensible decision then I don’t think anyone in the ground would have said anything about it.”
City wrapped up the win, which leaves them a point behind second-placed Leicester City who have 42, in the 82nd, when De Bruyne drove home after a swift counter-attack by Riyad Mahrez.
“Today I realised, why Sheffield are in the position they are in the table and didn’t lose one game away,” said Guardiola.
“We had problems (but) in the second half we were much better and in these type of games if the first ‘goal’ was not offside it would have been very difficult. Fortunately we could score two goals and win.”
Controversial Mane goal gets Liverpool past battling Wolves
Meanwhile at Liverpool, a controversial Sadio Mane goal was enough for Premier League leaders Liverpool to secure a nervy 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers and open up a 13-point cushion over their nearest challengers on Sunday.
Mane, in his 150th game for the club, netted three minutes before the break only for Adam Lallana to be penalised for handball in the build-up. However, a lengthy VAR review deemed the ball hit the midfielder’s shoulder and the goal stood.
Victory means Liverpool have become only the third team to go unbeaten in 50 consecutive home games in the English top flight, while they also closed out 2019 unbeaten at Anfield in all competitions for the fifth time in their history.
Liverpool have 55 points from 19 games, while Wolves are seventh in the table five points behind Chelsea in fourth.
Wolves, who had lost 15 of their previous 17 league visits to Anfield, made four changes from the side that stunned Manchester City 3-2 less than 48 hours previously.
They were the better side for large parts of the contest and might have taken something from the game had Joao Moutinho and Romain Saiss not blasted over presentable opportunities late on.
Liverpool, sporting gold World Champions badges on their shirts after their Club World Cup triumph, were rarely at their brilliant best but showed once again that they appear to have the mettle to claim a first domestic league title in 30 years.
The only goal of the game caused a flurry of controversy.
Referee Anthony Taylor had blown for handball as Lallana brought down Virgil van Dijk’s long ball before Mane swept in a half-volley. A lengthy VAR stoppage ensued before the decision was overturned much to the fury of the Wolves players and bench.
The visitors were then left seething when denied an immediate riposte after Pedro Neto’s effort was disallowed – again following a VAR review – following the most marginal of offside decisions against Jonny Otto.
Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo was booked in the aftermath after protesting with fourth official Mike Dean, but following the match he refused to be drawn into a discussion on VAR.
“These decisions are being taken by a referee miles away and he doesn’t have the feel for the game,” he said.
“What we don’t want is (what happened), to come to Anfield, Liverpool, a fantastic team, fantastic fans, fantastic stadium and we are left celebrating a non-goal.
“We had to manage our players. We played 45 hours ago, the way the players coped, a lot of them played 90 minutes in both, it’s amazing and it tells you a lot about their character.”
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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2019 07:29:47 IST