Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | ePaper
Guardiola backs VAR as controversial call helps Man City extend lead
Pep Guardiola was sorry if Manchester City were given a helping hand on their way to a 3-1 victory over Watford, but insisted his side were well worthy of the win that opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League. City were labouring to break down the massed ranks of Watford's defence, until Raheem Sterling's controversial 46th minute goal changed everything.
Sterling was initially flagged for offside as his effort looped over goalkeeper Ben Foster, but the decision was overturned by referee Paul Tierney following a close discussion with his assistant referee.
Sterling was in an offside position as he latched onto Sergio Aguero's lay-off from Ilkay Gundogan's pass, but the ball was kicked onto him by defender Daryl Janmaat, and the Dutchman's interference was enough to convince Tierney that Sterling should be ruled onside.
Sterling then went onto to complete a hat-trick as City pilled the pressure on second-placed Liverpool, who host Burnley at Anfield tomorrow. Guardiola wished the balance of the game had not hinged on such a moment, and backed the introduction of VAR in the Premier League next season despite complaints over its use in the Champions League this week.
"If the first goal is offside, I am sorry," said the City manager.
"There should be an easy solution and next season there will be. With VAR, that will not be a problem, it will be fairer.
"At the beginning of the season, Manchester City voted to install VAR. Some clubs did not accept it. Hopefully next season like in other countries in Europe we can install it.
"I am so sorry and I apologise to Javi (Gracia) and to Watford if the first goal is offside, but we were incredible.
"We made an incredible game, we played well in the first-half and had only one shot on target - their goal - against us."
However, Watford manager Gracia was angered by a call which fundamentally altered the course of the game.
"Today, in my opinion, it is clear," he said.
"At the moment Aguero touched the ball Sterling is in an offside position, a clear offside position, maybe two metres.
"After that, he is in an offside position and he has influence as well because he goes to the ball. After that, it is true the defender touches the ball, but he touches it because Sterling is close to him and is going to press him." Before the break, the champions had struggled to create chances against the massed ranks in defence from Watford, who despite making seven changes, made life very difficult for their hosts.