Lucas Moura earns Spurs draw at Manchester City as VAR history repeats | Football
It was an extraordinary finale and, amid the high drama of stoppage time, there were even some Manchester City supporters who happily left the stadium, believing they had just seen their team score a dramatic 92nd-minute winner.
What they had not accounted for was VAR deciding, after far too long, that the shot from Gabriel Jesus had been preceded by a handball from Aymeric Laporte. Jesus had danced in front of the supporters. Pep Guardiola and Sergio Agüero, who had fallen out so publicly earlier in the second half, had embraced on the touchline. The electronic scoreboard had pronounced it was 3-2. And the Spurs players had all retreated for the kick-off before the signal came that the goal could not stand.
For City, that was an agonising moment. They had been superior in every department. The shot-count was 29-3 in favour of the home team and, in corners, it was 11-2. What they could not do, ultimately, was outscore their opponents or hold out on the occasions when Raheem Sterling and then Sergio Agüero put them in front.
Spurs duly nabbed a point courtesy of their equalising goals from Erik Lamela and the substitute Lucas Moura, only 19 seconds after coming on, and that made it a frustrating afternoon for the champions because, if there is one lesson from last season, it is that a draw these days is a bad result for a team with title aspirations. This one ended City’s 15-match winning sequence and Guardiola was entitled to be exasperated after the performance of Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva in particular.
It also now transpires Raheem Sterling is capable of scoring the kind of expertly placed header that has never previously been listed among the skills of a player who, in terms of aerial threats, stands at 5ft 6in. Though it helps when Kevin De Bruyne is capable of swinging over the kind of beautifully weighted delivery that led to the opening goal.
De Bruyne’s cross was sumptuous, spinning high in the air before arcing towards the back post. Sterling was not just waiting for the ball. He had turned his body position so that when the ball connected with his forehead it angled across Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal before nestling just inside the side netting. It was placed to perfection. And, in that precise moment, the television cameras caught Guardiola looking at his coaching staff as if he was a little surprised, too.
By that stage City could legitimately feel they ought to have had a penalty for Lamela’s manhandling of Rodri from a corner. The referee, Michael Oliver, evidently did not think a player being grappled to the floor was worthy of being penalised. Neither did the VAR officials, mysteriously given this is precisely the sort of oversight they should be trying to put right.
The next twist was that it was Lamela who strode through the middle to place a left-footed shot past Ederson for the equaliser. Spurs had been behind only three minutes but Aymeric Laporte committed the classic defensive error of turning his back as his opponent shaped to shoot. Twenty yards out, Lamela curled a low effort into the bottom corner and Spurs had a goal that had scarcely seemed imaginable bearing in mind the way the game had gone until that point.
Whisper it, but in the opening exchanges there were actually some moments of carelessness from De Bruyne. He tried to blame the pitch at one point after trundling one shot into Lloris’s arms and there was even one piece of play when his loose control inadvertently knocked the ball out for a throw-in.
Soon, however, he was making it feel very pernickety to dwell on such minor lapses. De Bruyne’s accuracy, with either foot, must make him an ideal colleague, and City’s second goal came from another of those precise right-sided deliveries. Bernardo was also involved in the buildup, just as he had been for the first one, and this time it was Agüero who darted forwards to steer the ball into the net.
The problem for City was turning superiority into goals. For long spells they were irresistible, flooding forward in attack and, when they did lose the ball, making sure they won it back.
All the same, their inability to establish a two-goal cushion left them vulnerable to the kind of sucker-punch that Lucas Moura delivered after his 55th-minute introduction for Harry Winks. Lamela swung over the corner from the right. Moura had the run on Kyle Walker to out-jump the defender at the near post and the Brazilian’s header flashed past Ederson. Thanks to VAR, it proved to be decisive in denying City the three points.