On its way to broken records and a Premier League title in 2017-18, Manchester City dropped only two points before Christmas. Three weeks into its title defense, it has already equaled that tally … in part due to a handball goal that should not have stood.
The champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Wolves on Saturday to kick off the Premier League weekend. They were matched by a tenacious and cunning effort from the newly-promoted side. Either team could have realistically taken all three points.
But the talking point will be the game’s opening goal, which Wolves’ Willy Boly quite clearly scored with his hand. (Video above.)
Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte leveled matters with about a quarter of the 90 minutes to go. The French center back got the Citizens the very least that they deserved with a bullet header:
And frankly, City probably deserved more. The 1-1 draw is not a “result.” It’s two points dropped, and it’s an early advantage for Liverpool in the Premier League title race.
But a City victory would have been cruel on Wolves, who didn’t park the bus; didn’t quiver in fear at the prospect of a City drubbing; and didn’t lack chances of their own.
Wolves challenged City, and got their reward
City, to be clear, had the better chances. The match wasn’t exactly balanced. In the first half, Sergio Aguero hit the post. Gundogan forced a close-range save out of Rui Patricio. Then Patricio flew across his goal to tip a long-range Raheem Sterling strike onto the crossbar.
Wolves had one or two half-chances of their own. They legitimately played well. But playing well against City has come to equal not getting completely bulldozed. Wolves, to their credit, didn’t get run over.
But they needed some good fortune to take the lead.
The handball goal
There are no ifs or buts here. Boly’s goal absolutely should have been disallowed. If anything – if his teammate got a slight touch a split-second before Boly’s – he was also offside.
Either way, this is as blatant as can be:
Where does the draw leave Manchester City?
The handball no-call wasn’t the only decision City was on the wrong end of. Minutes after Wolves’ opener, the champions probably should have had a penalty:
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) August 25, 2018
Later on, Gabriel Jesus very nearly won the game with a close-range header. Aguero hit the bar in stoppage time. Wolves engineered a few dangerous counterattacks, especially after the introduction of Adama Traore. But City was on top.
xG map for Wolves – Manchester City. I mean basically the chances were there for City to win. pic.twitter.com/oDiZuPmLYb
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) August 25, 2018
Saturday didn’t offer much reason to believe Pep Guardiola’s team isn’t the best in England. But it did deal City the kind of misfortune that’s integral to nearly every scenario that would see a challenger to the top of the Premier League table. Saturday did, therefore, add a few percentage points to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, with an expectation-obliterating season, Liverpool could knock City off its perch.
Premier League’s VAR dinosaurs exposed again
Italy’s Serie A uses video review – VAR. Germany’s Bundesliga uses it. Spain’s La Liga now uses it. FIFA installed it for the World Cup, and it was an overwhelming success.
Yet the Premier League, and the dinosaurs who run it, have refused to take the plunge. They’re scared of backlash for irrational reasons.
Wolves’ goal was the exact type of refereeing mistake that VAR invariably corrects. Its use, at times, can be controversial or disputed – just like countless refereeing decisions in its absence. But it makes a call like the one referee Martin Atkinson missed on Saturday indisputable.
– – – – – – –