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There’s no reason in the world why Sheffield United shouldn’t have won the first Premier League match since the planet’s most popular sports circuit returned Wednesday from its three-month coronavirus-caused hiatus.
In the first half of what ended as a scoreless draw against Aston Villa, the Blades scored a perfectly good goal — one that was somehow missed not just by referee Michael Oliver, but also by the technology that is supposed to prevent those sorts of mistakes from happening.
The play in question happened late in the first half of the Prem’s (re)opener, after Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland had corralled a cross in his box. Villa striker Keinan Davis collided with Nyland and knocked him into his own net. The Norwegian backstop desperately tried to hold the ball out in front of the goal line, but replays appeared to show that the ball had crossed it entirely:
The visitors immediately appealed to Oliver. But the goal-line technology that has been in use in the Prem the last few seasons — and which helped determine last year’s title race — clearly failed, as Oliver’s watch didn’t buzz to confirm the goal.
The much-maligned video assistant referee didn’t intervene, either, adding to the maddening inconsistency that has plagued VAR’s debut season in the Premier League.
Hawk-Eye, the company the league uses for its electronic goal-signaling system, apologized for the error saying the mass of bodies in front of the hosts goal had prevented an alert from triggering.
“The match officials did not receive a signal to the watch nor earpiece as per the Goal Decision System protocol,” the statement read. “The seven cameras located in the stands around the goal area were significantly occluded by the goalkeeper, defender and goalpost. This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation.
“Hawk-Eye unreservedly apologizes to the Premier League, Sheffield United and everyone affected by this incident,” it concluded.
The error could have major implications at the bottom of the table. While Villa remained second-last in the 20-team standings, the tie increased the Birmingham club’s chances of avoiding the financial disaster that would accompany relegation to the second-tier. Instead, the Villians now sit one point from safety, just behind 16th-place West Ham.
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