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David Moyes’ fury about longest Premier League VAR check in West Ham draw with Villa

David Moyes remonstrates with referee
Moyes remonstrated with the referee at the end of the match - Mark Leech/Mark Leech

With a face of thunderous fury, David Moyes marched onto the pitch, a tracksuit-clad warrior ready to face his next adversary. Near the centre-circle, the Scot met Jarred Gillett, the referee who had not long ago ruled out what would have been a 95th-minute West Ham winner.

From James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick, a scramble had led to both Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek attempting to bundle the ball over the line from the floor. When they did just that, the London Stadium erupted. Immediately, though, Aston Villa’s players swarmed Gillet protesting that Soucek had handled.

Tony Harrington, the VAR official, slowed the replay, froze the frame, changed the angle, and zoomed in and out. Eventually, he invited Gillet to review his own workings.

And some five minutes and 37 seconds later – after the longest VAR check ever in the Premier League – Soucek was deemed to have deliberately handled the ball.

Several half-full bottles of sports drinks flew across the West Ham technical area. Moyes, arms stretched out wide, remonstrated with fourth official Sam Allison. “Handball” cried the despondent home fans at every remaining touch.

They and Moyes were already aggrieved that Michail Antonio, who opened the scoring in the first half, was denied what would have been his and West Ham’s second goal shortly after the interval.

The Jamaican had, from close range, finished from Jarrod Bowen’s corner. Var, though, determined that the ball had struck his hand.

By the time Moyes reached the press room his anger had not subsided. “I’ve got nothing to say on the VAR decisions,” he began acidly. “You can contact Howard [Webb] yourselves.”

Having confirmed he would not be contacting Webb himself, Moyes cited recent decisions not to award West Ham penalties during their recent Europa League defeat at Freiburg and Premier League draw with Burnley.

“Every one of them have gone against us on handball situations,” said Moyes. “It is hard to take. You’ve got VAR, so if VAR thinks its right – they’ve got a chance to look at all the things – they must be right.

“I think football people see things differently. Maybe that’s where I see some of them differently. I think undoubtedly you might think some of them hit people’s arms, and if that’s the rule we must go with the rule. That’s it.

“But we had two that hit people’s arms last week and not one of them went our way.”

From Vladimir Coufal’s delicious cross, Antonio’s stooping header had given West Ham a deserved lead. Unai Emery spent the majority of the opening 45 minutes using the commonly accepted football sign language for “relax, lads”.

Antonio
Antonio scored West Ham's opener - REUTERS/TONY OBRIEN

Rarely does the Spaniard get his team selection wrong, but a pair of double-substitutions, the first at half-time, the second just past the hour, was required to bring Villa the control they had uncharacteristically missed.

“When they scored, we changed the plan,” Emery admitted. Eventually, replacement duo Moussa Diaby and Nicolo Zaniolo combined, the latter levelling with 11 minutes remaining.

Villa too, could argue that they were denied a penalty before Antonio had opened the scoring. Emerson had been gesticulating when Leon Bailey’s cross struck his hand. Gillet, though, instantly waived away the protest. “Var is fair for both teams,” said Emery.

Unlike his counterpart, Emery zipped swiftly down the tunnel at full-time. He was clearly pleased his side had, ahead of the international break, increased the gap on Tottenham in fifth place to three points.

“Until games 33 or 34 I’m not going to speak about being in top four or top five,” he said. “But of course, we have to be happy; we have to be proud of our work.”‌

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