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Opinion: Harsh On Villa, But Manchester City’s Goal Was Perfectly Legal

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Silva Goal Subject To Controversy

Manchester City v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

If you’ve followed Manchester City for as long as I have, you’ll know that the blues first goal last night was something that would normally go against us.

Think back to March 1990 and City’s trip to The City Ground for a first division match at Nottingham Forest. Relegation threatened City were holding their own against 4th placed Forest when, with the score at 0-0, a certain Gary Crosby thought he’d try something different.

City keeper Andy Dibble had just caught a cross and was looking to belt it downfield, when Crosby ran from behind, nodded the ball out of Dibble’s hand and into the goal. Surely they should disallow it, everybody thought, but no. Despite City’s protests, the goal was given as the ball was deemed in play, and City lost the match 1-0.

Fast forward to 20th January 2020 at the Etihad Stadium, when Aston Villa were a tad upset about City’s first goal. Okay, maybe a little more than a tad as Villa manager Dean Smith was sent to the stands for his protests.

I can see why Villa would be upset; I was livid when Crosby’s goal was given, but it was scored within the letter of football law – exactly how Wednesday’s goal came about, and if that had happened to City, of course we’d be furious, but that doesn’t mean it should be struck off.

We all agree that Rodri was so far offside, he could have been in his own back garden when the ball was headed forward. But what happened next was solely down to how Tyrone Mings handled the situation and ultimately, it falls down to a defensive error.

The keeper hammers the ball forward but straight to a City head. The ball comes back from City towards Rodri, who was nowhere near Mings or the ball at the time. He still made no effort to get the ball when Mings took it on his chest. Seconds later, Rodri dispossesses Mings, feeds Bernardo and City go 1-0 up.

So why was it a defensive error and not offside?

When the keeper played the ball out, Rodri was fully in the line of sight of Mings, so the defender knew he was there and where he was. Before collecting the ball, Mings took a look over his right shoulder to see where Rodri was, so again was aware there was a City player close. The second Mings tried to control the ball, he brought Rodri into play as the ball had been deliberately touched by an opposing player first. Rodri was then free to challenge Mings and set up the goal.

Knowing of Rodri’s presence, Mings actually had three options:

Hammer the ball forward;

Let it go over his head and have Rodri flagged offside;

Control it and hope he doesn’t get dispossessed;

Mings chose the latter and was suitably punished. For those saying different consider this: If Mings had controlled the ball and then played a poor backpass to the keeper, Rodri could legally intercept and score – the fact he was offside was made irrelevant when Mings deliberately touched the ball.

The decision to allow the goal was met by anger, with Mings claiming he didn’t even know that law existed, a statement backed up by Pep Guardiola who also said he was unaware of the ruling, but Pep did say VAR had analysed the decision and allowed the goal to stand. Mings tweeted that players could ‘just stand offside and allow players to tackle you.’

Yes Tyrone, that’s correct. You might find this hard to believe but there is no law against being offside as long as you don’t touch the ball, so five players could be stood behind you, all in offside positions and it won’t make a scrap of difference until one of them plays the ball.

Ultimately, Mings’ decision cost his team a point, and he wants to shift the blame and focus somewhere else.

Maybe with such pantomime defending, maybe his teammates should be shouting ‘He’s behind you!’