Pep Guardiola has questioned the angle used for the VAR review on Fernando Llorente’s winning goal that knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League.
Tottenham reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in their history with an exhilarating 4-4 away-goals win over City on a remarkable night at the Etihad Stadium.
Llorente’s goal 17 minutes from time proved decisive, although it had to survive a VAR review for handball. Replays showed the ball may have brushed Llorente’s elbow before going in off his hip.
Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir went to his pitch-side monitor to review the situation, but the angle he saw triggered no reason for him to change his original decision.
Another angle, however, suggested it may have in fact hit his elbow – something that Guardiola referenced in his post-match press conference.
I support VAR, the City boss said. It is just to see the goal maybe from Llorente’s handball. From one angle, it is handball. From another, it is not.
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I am for fair football. When it is offside, it is offside. I think in the future, even in the present it will be fair.
On a quite extraordinary night, Raheem Sterling was denied a dramatic winner for City in stoppage time when Sergio Aguero was ruled offside in the build-up after a VAR check.
The goal sparked jubilant celebrations in the home end but the replays picked up that Aguero was offside just before teeing Sterling up. City’s joy turned to despair, and vice versa for Spurs.
Guardiola conceded the decision was a correct one, adding: Yes, it is tough. It would be better if we don’t concede. We are close to going through. It is cruel but we have to accept it.
Analysis: City scarred like never before
Sky Sports reporter Adam Bate at Etihad Stadium: This should have been the night that Manchester City supporters truly fell in love with the Champions League. Instead, they left the Etihad Stadium more scarred by it than ever before. Do not expect the booing of the anthem to stop any time soon after the cruellest of quarter-final exits to Tottenham – one that came courtesy of VAR.
Aguero was indeed offside in the build-up to Sterling’s stoppage-time goal that would have put City through 5-4 on aggregate. The potential handball call against Llorente for what turned out to be the winner could have gone either way. But football is about emotion as well as fact and these City supporters were put through it.
They had thought the comeback was complete and why wouldn’t they given the scenes? Guardiola had danced down the touchline and the goal had been given, the scoreboard updated. The City players celebrated, the Tottenham team slumped across the field.
It took what felt like an age to reverse the decision and that simplest of joys – scoring a late winner – turned to dust. Of course, the stakes were raised higher still by the away-goals rule. If it had stood, City were through. If it were disallowed, they were out. All too final.
It might make for good television but for the fans in the ground it is unbearable and the bald explanation insufficient given the circumstances. Trust in officials has never been high. Supporters need to see it for themselves to believe it. Many left the ground cursing UEFA and everyone else for what they had been forced to endure.
‘City one game away from bad season’
Paul Merson believes City’s Champions League exit at the hands of Spurs has left their season in a perilous position.
City are one bad game away from a bad season, I mean that, he told The Debate. This is a top-quality team, they should win the league, they have the players.
To win the FA Cup and the League Cup, I don’t see that as a big deal for them. The pressure is on now, massively on.
They’re 90 minutes away from a bad season. Second is no good for Man City, it’s a waste of time.