Just as Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel knew his club got the rub of the green in overturning a 1-0 deficit at Man City, Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling know they are right to feel aggrieved by the final moments at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
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Man City’s winger was shocked to not have won a penalty off Kurt Zouma moments before Marcos Alonso scored Chelsea’s winner in a 2-1 loss that kept the hosts from clinching the 2020-21 Premier League.
“For me I couldn’t get a shot off because he’s put his knee in the back of his hamstring,” Sterling said of Zouma. “I don’t know how it’s not a penalty. I don’t know how it’s not reviewed properly. VAR was here to help but it wasn’t meant to be. … He said to me that it’s been checked and cleared that it’s not a penalty but for me it’s a for-sure penalty.”
Guardiola tried to not be drawn into the debate at first, simply answering questions about the call by saying, “It is a penalty,” but pregnant pauses from the interviewing drew out the competitor in Pep.
“It’s a penalty, that’s all so it’s happened,” Guardiola said. “Football has happened. The opinion for officials and Anthony, they know it, and that’s all that I can say. Sometimes we make mistakes. I saw in the TV it’s a penalty. 88th minute, and we’d have to score, but it’s nothing. We’re going to face them again, we’re going to learn from that.”
As Robbie Earle said after the game on NBC, City can’t make too much about the incident or losing twice to Chelsea in 2021 because the European Cup is the only conditional left on their docket; The Premier League will be won the next time they take a point or Manchester United drops one, and that could happen as early as Sunday.
But as far as nailed-on penalties go, it’s almost more surprising that Anthony Taylor didn’t give one on initial viewing than it is that VAR decided to stand by his call.