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Friday, April 19, 2024

West Ham denied last-gasp winner by agonising VAR check as Villa take point

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Football

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West Ham were controversially denied a stoppage-time winner by a farcically long VAR decision in the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.

Referee Jarred Gillett and VAR Tony Harrington spent over five minutes agonising over whether a scrappy goal from Konstantinos Mavropanos had hit the arm of Tomas Soucek on its way in.

The replays looked inconclusive, with a post obscuring the view of a sea of arms and legs on the goal-line.

But the goal was eventually ruled out, one of three chalked off for the Hammers, to leave boss David Moyes dismayed.

It meant Nicolo Zaniolo’s goal rescued a point for Villa after Michail Antonio had headed West Ham into a first-half lead.

Moyes stuck with the four-pronged attack which put five past Freiburg in the Europa League on Thursday with Antonio ahead of Lucas Paqueta, Mohammed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen.

While usually willing to sit back and let the opposition have the ball, West Ham suddenly developed a pressing game – and Villa were rattled.

Paqueta had a shot deflected wide by team-mate Soucek from Bowen’s cutback and Vladimir Coufal’s drive was blocked by Emi Martinez.

The breakthrough came after half-an-hour when Coufal swung in another cross and the diving Antonio got in front of Ezri Konsa to head home his first goal since August.

Kudus had the ball in the net shortly afterwards but Gillett had already blown for a foul on Martinez by Antonio.

West Ham had another goal disallowed, more contentiously, just after the break when Antonio bundled in a Bowen corner.

Martinez, in front of another eccentric South American goalkeeper, Rene Higuita of ‘scorpion kick’ fame, totally missed the ball but VAR Harrington ruled Antonio had put it in with his arm.

Villa began to rally as West Ham’s energy levels dipped, and Alphonse Areola saved a 20-yarder from Youri Tielemans and a stinger through a crowd of bodies from Konsa.

An equaliser looked inevitable and it came after 78 minutes when Tielemans sent Moussa Diaby scampering down the right.

Diaby’s cutback found fellow substitute Zaniolo who arrived in the box right on cue to prod the ball past Areola.

In stoppage time Matty Cash stopped what looked a certain goal for James Ward-Prowse before Mavropanos, up for a corner, scooped the ball into the net.

In a scene reminiscent of Saturday’s Six Nations, Bowen and Soucek tried to force the ball over the line.

Gillett, after more than four minutes, was eventually beckoned to the pitchside TV screen and somehow decided the Czech midfielder had used an arm, disallowing the goal to a chorus of boos and earning an earful from Moyes after the final whistle.

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