Coventry fume over VAR call that robbed FA Cup of one of its greatest ever moments

Coventry City manager Mark Robins consoles Ben Sheaf

The heartache of Coventry City losing one of the most thrilling FA Cup semi-finals also came with fury after their 121st-minute “winner” was ruled out by VAR. “A toenail offside,” said manager Mark Robins. “It’s ridiculous” .

It may have been less than a toenail. Haji Wright, according to the pictures, was just in front of Aaron Wan-Bissaka when he made his run to set up Victor Torp. Even on replays it looked to the naked eye that he was onside, which was ITV co-commentator Lee Dixon’s first call.

For 1min 51sec, Coventry had pulled off the biggest FA Cup comeback miracle. Having trailed by three goals after an hour, they had taken the game to extra-time through Ellis Simms, Callum O’Hare and Haji Wright’s penalty. Torp’s goal was sending them to the final against Manchester City before the cruellest of VAR calls.

Even when Dixon realised it was offside, he thought it should be given. “Can you believe this game? It looked tight. Just give him the benefit of the doubt, why not? But that minute red line is just the wrong side of the blue one.”

When the tie went to penalties, United won after O’Hare had his spot-kick saved and Ben Sheaf missed the target.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” Robins said. “I’m proud as well. Someone said to me I don’t think any team have been as close to a final without getting there. We deserved to go through, we were 20 seconds away and a toenail offside. Those lines are the bane of our life.

“It took an age. The fourth official said there was nothing wrong with it [initially]. A toenail offside. Disappointed but we have to be really proud. Once the dust settles a lot of people will talk about that game for a long time.

Such are the fine margins, Wright may have been given onside had the pass been made milliseconds later. Wan-Bissaka was heading towards his own goal and was mid-stride when the pass was made.

“He has not finished his second stride,” said ITV pundit Ian Wright. “If he finishes his second stride it might not be offside. These are the margins. It’s sad because it is so tight.”

Robins believes momentum that had been wrested by his team was handed back to United when the goal was disallowed. “The mentality changes because you’ve almost won it and then you haven’t. It puts you on the back foot going into the penalty shootout. Thirty seconds later you’re in a shootout,” he said. “I don’t blame anyone for missing. It is what it is. We’ll have to get better at them.”

Coventry still more than matched United and looked better than their position of eighth in the Championship. Players such as Simms, who arrived in the summer from Everton and has 19 goals, enhanced their reputations and stayed on the pitch afterwards while United went quickly back to the changing rooms.

Jubilant Coventry fans

“It hurts a lot, especially coming back from 3-0 down and having the potential to win in extra time,” said Simms. “To lose on penalties is gutting because it can go either way.

“I felt in the second half of extra time we had great chances. I had one tipped on to the bar and we had the VAR disallowed goal. We had the energy that the fans gave us. We were unlucky but it just wasn’t our day to get it. I’m proud of the lads.”

Robins’ message to his players in the dressing room is that while they have a Championship game on Wednesday against Hull, they have played their part in one of the great FA Cup ties.

“We’ve just said to them they’ve put themselves right up there in the history of the football club. People will talk about this game for a long time. Coventry City fans will be talking about it but so will neutrals”

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