Chris Wilder slams ‘unprecedented’ goal-line technology error and asks: ‘Why no VAR?’

Chris Wilder said he was “frustrated and disappointed” at the “unprecedented” goal-line technology error that denied Sheffield United in their 0-0 draw at Aston Villa, and asked: “Why didn’t VAR intervene?”

We round up the reaction from a bizarre incident on the Premier League’s big return following a 100-day absence due to coronavirus…

So, what exactly happened?

Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood swung a dangerous free-kick into the six-yard box in the lead-up to half-time; the ball was collected by backpedalling Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland, but he stumbled back into the netting under pressure from team-mate Keinan Davis, and replays showed the entire ball had clearly crossed the line.

Sheffield United’s players celebrated what would have been the first goal after the Premier League’s resumption after a 100-day absence, but referee Michael Oliver pointed to his watch, suggesting it had not vibrated to signal a goal had been awarded by Hawk-Eye.

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We understand Oliver did get alerted for that “goal” – but not until he was in the dressing room at half-time.

PGMOL statement – why didn’t VAR step in?

Under the IFAB protocol, the VAR is able to check goal situations, however due to the fact that the on-field match officials did not receive a signal, and the unique nature of that, the VAR did not intervene.

The game ended goalless and Hawk-Eye apologised for their error, claiming the obstruction was like nothing they had seen in 9,000 games using the technology, and the PGMOL said they could not intervene with VAR.

Wilder: Unbelievable error

Blades boss Wilder showed a range of emotions after the game – frustration, bemusement and sympathy – admitting he felt sorry for referee Oliver and fourth official Chris Kavanagh.

He told Sky Sports: “The statement’s come out, unprecedented, unbelievable. That’s the balance. We were waiting for somebody, I don’t know who it was at Stockley Park, to show a bit of courage, stick their chest out and say I’ll make that decision. But if they say they haven’t seen it, and seven cameras haven’t seen it, I suppose he’s going to say he can’t make that decision.

“I think we all had the feel, both sets of players, fans and staff, I think even speaking to the referee and the fourth official, I think we all had the feel of a goal. You listen to the statement that’s been given by Hawk-Eye, my issue is one of frustration, seven cameras haven’t picked it up, the most technical league in the world, video analysis and everything we see at every angle hasn’t seen a goal. That’s disappointing from our point of view.

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“We went to Tottenham last year, it’s nothing really to do with the timing, John Lundstram’s big toe was offside, and I’m hanging around in the pouring rain at White Hart Lane for 10 minutes for a decision. So I don’t know why I couldn’t have waited around for another 10 minutes in Birmingham in the rain for another decision.”

Wilder added in his post-match press conference: “We’ve got Chris Kavanagh, one of the best refs in the Premier League, and Michael Oliver, one of the best refs in Europe. If you asked them tonight they’ll be scratching their heads.

“I’ve got to say I feel really sorry for the two main actors in it; Michael Oliver and Chris Kavanagh. We believed it should have been referred, and that’s what we were asking for, a referral.


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“The goalkeeper was in the Holte End! He was about eight rows back! He would have been mullered by punters if they were there, he was in the Holte End! Everyone saw it, all 300 of us!

“This is a decision that can’t happen. If someone had the courage to make that decision at Stockley Park, I think that should be made, but it wasn’t.”

Norwood: Where was VAR?

Blades midfielder Norwood, who had the shot, also said on Sky Sports after the game: “Unbelievable, isn’t it? They put all the technology into the game, the money they’ve spent, and they can’t pick that up.

“To be fair to the referee, it’s not him, is it? It’s the technology behind it. I don’t understand why we have VAR if there’s a clear and obvious error, why can’t they just say it’s a goal?

“It’s frustrating, but we’re not going to moan about it, we’ll pick ourselves up.”

What have Hawk-Eye and the PGMOL said?

Hawk-Eye have claimed that the obstruction level – with players and the goalpost – was the highest they have seen in 9,000 games, but an angle down the goalline clearly shows the ball over the line without much obstruction from post or player.

In a statement, Hawk-Eye said: “During the first half of the Aston Villa vs Sheffield United match at Villa Park, there was a goal-line incident where the ball was carried over the line by Aston Villa goalkeeper, No 25 Nyland.

“The match officials did not receive a signal to the watch nor earpiece as per the Goal Decision System (GDS) protocol. The seven cameras located in the stands around the goal area were significantly occluded by the goalkeeper, defender, and goalpost. This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation.

“The system was tested and proved functional prior to the start of the match accordance with the IFAB Laws of The Game and confirmed as working by the match officials. The system has remained functional throughout. Hawk-Eye unreservedly apologises to the Premier League, Sheffield United, and everyone affected by this incident.”

The PGMOL also said they were unable to check the decision via VAR because the officials did not receive a signal, and because of the “unique nature” of that scenario.

“Under the IFAB protocol, the VAR is able to check goal situations, however due to the fact that the on-field match officials did not receive a signal, and the unique nature of that, the VAR did not intervene.”

Dermot: Embarrassing error

Sky Sports’ resident refereeing expert Dermot Gallagher admits this usually watertight technology failed on Wednesday night…

“You couldn’t write it, could you?

“It is an embarrassment for Hawk-Eye, and nobody would have expected that. You just have to accept that it happened, it’s not something anybody wanted to see, we’ve just got to deal with it.

“It’s a wonderful concept, it’s normally the real deal, but on this occasion it has failed the referee, and it should have been a goal.”

Smith: Feel for them, but we deserved win

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith admitted he felt sorry for Sheffield United, but insisted his side deserved to win the game on balance…

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