Var-y 'cruel': Guardiola laments overrule of Raheem Sterling's goal

VAR DRAMA #2: Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir signalling a VAR review, which cancelled out Raheem Sterling's late goal for offside. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VAR DRAMA #1: Fernando Llorente about to score Spurs' crucial third goal, with the ball grazi
Sheer joy for Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, scorer of the crucial third goal Fernando Llorente and two-goal hero Son Heung-min after the Champions League quarter-final second-leg match at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Manchester City won 4-3 but Tottenham progressed on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate result. PHOTO: REUTERS
VAR DRAMA #2: Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir signalling a VAR review, which cancelled out Raheem Sterling's late goal for offside. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VAR DRAMA #1: Fernando Llorente about to score Spurs' crucial third goal, with the ball grazi
VAR DRAMA #1: Fernando Llorente about to score Spurs’ crucial third goal, with the ball grazing his right arm before going in off his thigh. PHOTO: REUTERS
VAR DRAMA #2: Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir signalling a VAR review, which cancelled out Raheem Sterling's late goal for offside. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VAR DRAMA #1: Fernando Llorente about to score Spurs' crucial third goal, with the ball grazi
VAR DRAMA #2: Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir signalling a VAR review, which cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s late goal for offside. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Guardiola laments overrule of Sterling's goal as Spurs win on away goals to reach last four

LONDON • There are great goals, lucky goals, own goals, winning goals and now, in the era of the video assistant referee (VAR), the "provisional goal".

No game highlighted the new normal more than Wednesday's extraordinary Champions League quarter-final second leg between Manchester City and Tottenham, which ended 4-3 on the night and Spurs progressing 4-4 on away goals.

Raheem Sterling thought he had the winner and his hat-trick in added time, with his manager Pep Guardiola punching the air maniacally and the Etihad Stadium erupting in delirium.

However, referee Cuneyt Cakir had other ideas, signalling the goal had been overruled after a video review and leaving Guardiola on his knees as their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple died.

"I watched the action and the people from above decided it (City's disallowed goal) was offside," said the Spaniard. "In the moment, we celebrated and we were so close to the semi-finals. It is cruel, but it is what it is and we have to accept it.

The Spurs players, who moments before looked utterly distraught, revelled in the knowledge that they, and not City, were going through.

Son Heung-min, their match-winner in the first leg and the hero on the night after twice capitalising on poor giveaways by City defender Aymeric Laporte in the first half, declared their progression to a last-four clash with Ajax as "madness".

The South Korea forward, who now has 11 goals in 11 games with England striker Harry Kane absent, said: "I have never seen something like this, it was a very tough game, a very crazy game.

FAIR DECISION

I didn't see the ball because I had other players in front of me, then the ball came to me on the hand... but I think it was a goal.

FERNANDO LLORENTE, Tottenham striker, saying that Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir was right to allow his controversial goal to stand.

RIGHT CALL

Replays clearly showed that Sergio Aguero was offside when the ball deflected off Bernardo Silva and into the striker's path.

MARK CLATTENBURG, former Premier League referee, on the officials making the right call to disallow Raheem Sterling's stoppage-time goal.

"Sometimes you are annoyed with VAR but, today, it is 'thank you and good decision'. We fought together for 90 minutes."

The crazy game started with a breathless 21 minutes, which went 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, before Kevin de Bruyne dished out his third assist to tee up Sergio Aguero to make it 4-2 just before the hour.

City thought they had reached only their second semi-final of Europe's elite competition, the first time since 2016 - only to be foiled by Fernando Llorente's "one of the best moments in my career".

The substitute's decisive goal 17 minutes from time was allowed to stand after a VAR review to check for a handball.

The Spain striker insisted Spurs could go all the way after reaching the European Cup semi-final for the first time since 1962.

He said: "To do this with an unbelievable team and be for the first time in the semi-finals of the Champions League with these teammates is crazy."

Despite the controversy over the ball brushing Llorente's arm before going in off his thigh, former Spurs great Glenn Hoddle said it was the correct decision. Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand disagreed; he felt Spurs had made their own luck.

Even Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, one of the more vociferous critics of VAR, accepted that on this occasion, his side had benefited from the technology.

Declaring "that is why we love football", the Argentinian said: "It was unbelievable, the way it finished. My players are heroes to be here. I'm so happy for them, for the fans. Today, we showed great character and great personality."

His players now have the opportunity to write themselves into folklore, with the first leg against Ajax on April 30 at their new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where they are unbeaten in three games.

The clubs' first clash in the competition also holds a special meaning for defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.

The May 8 reverse fixture marks the first time the Belgian pair will return to Amsterdam since leaving Ajax in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Var-y 'cruel''. Print Edition | Subscribe