Soccer / man city
WHOWUNNIT? THE REAL STORY OF MAN CITY'S 2018/9 PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE WIN OVER LIVERPOOL
One of the most thrilling title races in recent memory saw Liverpool push Man City right to the wire yet ultimately fail in their objective to win a first Premier League title yet on the day that The Royal Mint issued a Sherlock Holmes coin, was it a fair and true result? Football observers have marvelled at the attacking football of both mega-moneyed sides and relentless will to win yet equally, rival fans of both clubs and neutrals alike have noticed the effect of refereeing decisions seemingly helping both along the way with fan factions suggesting variously 'The FA want Liverpool to win it' or vice versa... Certainly, the Premier League and TV companies didn't want another season like last when Man City won the top flight with 5 games to spare after racking up an unassailable lead after an 18-game winning streak from game 3 until the final day of 2018, 14 points clear at the turn of the year with 'an air of invincibilty about them' in Gary Lineker's words - or heaven forbid a situation like PSG & Juventus who win their Leagues unchallenged. So what happened to make it more competitive and more compelling to the viewing billions around the world & how did Man City still manage to get over the line and win it? England's referee expert Keith Hackett tweeted what he viewed as the pivotal moment in the title race - the 31st minute of GameWeek 21 in the Man City - Liverpool title clash at The Etihad when Manchester-based ref Anthony Taylor didn't send off Sky Blues Captain Vincent Kompany for what he believed was a clear red card challenge on Mo Salah: True, this was a key decision in the race for The Premier League crown and cut Liverpool's 7-point lead at the top of the table to just 4 points with 17 games left to play yet there were many other vital refereeing decisions and mistakes along the way that contributed. Way back in August, 2018 was the first major controversial decision that would affect the title race, indeed it even helped make a race possible in the first instance halting Man City's early season momentum which they never let up last season - Willy Boly's handball goal for Wolves at Molineux meaning Pep Guardiola's men dropped two points early on. This first chink in the Man City armour would have given Liverpool and any other would-pretenders to the Champions crown hope that it was going to be different to last season and that they were up against human rather than superhuman opponents. Liverpool's early season form was excellent, racing out of the blocks and establishing a strong lead that was 4 points at Christmas, when the team on top usually go on to do it. Yet equally quick were the social media cries particularly on Twitter that The Reds were being favoured by the referees amidst a widespread view The FA want a Liverpool title, based largely on a string of soft penalties for Egyptian striker Mo Salah's penchant for diving, which was in clear evidence especially against Crystal Palace and Newcastle: There were also inexplicable decisions that went Liverpool's way from linesman, that seemed to support the favouritism theory with The Reds benefitting from goals from offside positions especially right in front of the officials that can only raise suspicion:Gameweek 25: Mane's goal vs West Ham Should Not Have Counted, Milner Offside: Also, in the final throes of the title race that meant the drama went to the final day of the season, Liverpool were inexplicably awarded decisions that kept their title dreams alive. 2. Gameweek 37 - Fabinho Dive In Front Of Lino vs NUFC- Free-Kick Awarded = Goal Amid a string of one-way decisions by Andre Marriner, BBC Match of the Day examined the free-kick that led to Liverpool's winning goal last Saturday night. "-Gary Lineker - 'The winning goal had a degree of controversy surrounding it? -Jermain Jenas 'As far as I'm concerned, Fabinho has really kidded the officials here, he's threw himself to the floor, -Lineker: "The linesman is two yards away?... -Jenas: "I don't know how's he given it" It was a decision universally condemned & so obviously in front of a linesman that again, it raised suspicion if not provides absolute proof of referee bias in The Premier League. Yet, seemingly for every irrefutable pro-Liverpool decision like the two above, Man City were similarly gifted decisions, goals and victories to keep the two teams neck-and-neck. If ever it seemed that the referees were pro-Liverpool & against Man City, The Citizens would receive a slice of 'luck' in the title run-in of 14 straight wins after a salutary lesson at St. James' Park in their final Premier League defeat of 2019. In particular two clear decisions assisted victories in tight games at 0-0 when Man City were struggling to score: Gameweek 30- Offside Given By Lino at 0-0 vs Watford REVERSED By The Referee With the game tied at 0-0, Man City are bizarrely awarded an offside goal when a referee overules his linesman's flag. As Watford manager Javier Gracia said, "It was a game before that moment and after that decision, the game changed...its offside, when Aguero touched the ball, he's standing in an offside position...and the linesman decide offside..." 2. Gameweek 28 - A Tight Man City - West Ham Game Is Decided By A Soft Penalty Man City are struggling to break down a very stubborn and organised West Ham defence until Bernardo Silva goes down under the slightest of contact and a penalty is awarded. A furious Manuel Pellegrini, former Man City boss, visiting with new side West Ham said: "If we lose by another action, we can accept the loss but not a penalty..." and asked after the game whether Man City would have scored had they not got the penalty, he said: ...well they didn't score another goal...we defended well, first save was the 61st minute" So clearly both sides benefitted from luck and referee bias - unconscious or otherwise - as the title race careered relentlessly on and, even more clearly, VAR is needed to effectively officiate the Premier League given games are played at breakneck speed by fit and fast professional athletes clocking sprinter times making the ref's job impossible. Intriguingly, as well as The Premier League in 2018/9, UEFA's Champions League has been running parallel and the European football governing body - which is investigating Man City's finances following the Football Leaks scandal late last year which included a threat by Man City to sue UEFA - introduced VAR technology earlier than expected. In a twist just in tonight, it emerged that UEFA investigators are seeking to ban Manchester City from The Champions League for misleading financial investigators. And the England-based team who were the first VAR victims in The Champions League? Man City amid controversy over Ferdnando's Llorente's goal at The Etihad. So on the more level playing field assured by VAR, Tottenham Hotspur bested Man City albeit in a two-legged knock-out competition and, arguably, if Spurs manage to overcome Liverpool on a similar VAR-guaranteed level playing field, then they can certainly hold a claim to be the best team in English football which at the moment means the best team also in Europe and the entire world. Maybe football Fate has a way of working things out. Roll on the brave new world of VAR in The Premier League from next season when the top flight table might be an entirely different landscape with ref mistakes & bias minimized. There may be more shocks ahead...