As the Premier League made it’s much-anticipated return after an enforced 100-day hiatus, there were mistakes aplenty, first-night nerves perhaps? Games in hand were first on the agenda. Relegation-threatened Aston Villa welcomed Sheffield United to an empty Villa Park. Followed by Manchester City v Arsenal.
Premier League Return: First Night Review
Aston Villa v Sheffield United – More Controversy
Prior to kick off players underwent all the new protocols and for the first time. As Michael Oliver blew for kick-off, he along with every player took to one knee. A show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign. The slogan also adorned the back of player shirts in place of names.
In what was a tepid first half, a tame Connor Hourihane shot which was easily saved, prompted the man in charge of crowd noise to press the goal button. That may have been a bit of a mistake, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.
The most remarkable moment of the match and arguably of any point in the season came towards the end of the half. A cross from Oliver Norwood was fumbled by Villa keeper Orjan Nyland and he collided with his own man, before seeming to fall behind the line holding the ball. The Sheffield United players looked expectantly at referee Oliver, who simply pointed to his watch and ran off.
Replays confirmed what all fans suspected and the ball had indeed crossed the line. However, the game went on and the scoreline remained 0-0. No VAR intervention was forthcoming and half time arrived, with more questions from players and manager Chris Wilder to the officials as they walked off.
The second half was a further drab affair, the controversy from the first half on the minds of all involved. After the full-time whistle goal-line technology providers Hawk-Eye, issued an ”unreserved” apology for the mistake. Gong on to say in over 9,000 games of the technologies use the technology hadn’t failed, on this occasion, every camera tracking the ball had been blocked by players, posts, and the keeper.
An apology will be of little sympathy to Chris Wilder’s men as they are searching for European qualification. Villa however will perhaps breathe a sigh of relief after taking a point from the game, but they will need to improve if they are to fight themselves out of the drop zone.
Manchester City v Arsenal – Luiz Horror Show
Once again in Manchester, players took to the knee. They lined up in their positions in a powerful image prior to kick off. Mikel Arteta returned to his former employers, with his young Arsenal side, hopeful of a better second part of the season.
In what was scheduled to be the last fixture prior to the league’s suspension Man City took control in the pouring rain. When Pablo Mari was forced off through injury, Arteta was forced to put David Luiz on, and nobody could have expected what was to come. Within minutes Luiz miscontrolled a through ball, allowing Raheem Sterling to smash one home past Berd Leno. The Brazilian defender wasn’t done there, moments after half time he dragged Riyad Mahrez to the ground in the penalty area. A penalty was duly awarded and Luiz was sent off. Arsenal went 2-0 down after Kevin de Bruyne converted the spot-kick were and down to 10 men.
The Gunners struggled to get a foothold in the match with their numerical disadvantage. A sickening collision between City keeper Ederson and young centre-back Eric Garcia led to the Spaniard being stretched off in a neck brace. This meant 11 minutes of added-on time, in which Phil Foden scored the third, after substitute Sergio Aguero had hit the post.
A comfortable three points in Man City’s forlorned attempt to prolong the coronation of Liverpool as Premier League champions. Arsenal on the other hand have the same old problems, mistakes leading to goals costing them dearly. European football seems a long way off for Arteta’s team.