Sometimes decisions go for you, sometimes against and on Saturday afternoon, it turned out to be the former for Manchester City.
Being held 0-0 by Watford was not in the City script as they looked to open up a four point lead over Liverpool in the race for the title, and it seemed like they would need a stroke of luck to break the stubborn Watford defence.
It duly came a minute after the break when Sergio Aguero chested the ball down for Raheem Sterling. There is no doubt that the winger was offside, but what is open to debate is whether the defender touching the ball against Sterling was the key factor.
I remember standing on the terrace at Bramhall Lane many years ago as City visited Sheffield United. With the score at 1-1, Adrian Heath (I think it was) attempted to pass to David White who was clearly offside. As Heath made the pass, the ball cannoned off the back of the United defender and into the path of White, who was then flagged offside, much to the ire of my fellow travelling blues, who believed the goal should have stood as it came off the defender.
Saturday’s incident was a little more involved though and less cut and dry. As Sterling went for the ball, the flag immediately went up but the defender attempted a clearance that rebounded off Sterling and into the goal. It’s fair to say the winger may not have realised he was offside; quite often, when a team moves at speed as City do, the player is looking for the pass, not down the line so I think it’s quite fair that Sterling went for the ball.
The contentious issue is whether the defender playing the ball onto Sterling in effect made him onside. If a defender plays a backpass to the keeper and an attacker picks it up and scores, the goal is given so why not in this situation?
The linesman was clearly right to flag, but was the referee right to overrule him? People have been saying this is why we need VAR now, but I’m not sure VAR would have been able to fully clear this one up. Let’s also remember as well that City actually voted for the introduction of VAR, but the majority of Premier League clubs were against it! And VAR didn’t exactly help in Germany when Schalke were given a penalty despite the VAR screen being broken.
On this issue, I really do feel a bit for Watford, but sadly these things happen. Look at the number of clear penalties City have been denied, the ‘offside’ goals that were actually legitimate, and of course, Wily Boly’s blatant handball at Wolves earlier in the season which gave them the lead.
City have benefitted on this occasion, but I don’t think the introduction of VAR next season will stop these incidents from still occurring.
What do you think? Was it a legitimate goal or have City benefitted from a dodgy decision? Let us know your thoughts, because I can’t call it!