Goal-line technology stole the show as Aston Villa and Sheffield United played out a rancid goalless draw on the Premier League’s return. Villa stay second-bottom, Blades stay sixth.
Before the game, the players paused for a minute’s silence to remember the tragic loss of life over the last period, then when Michael Oliver blew there first whistle, he and all the players took a knee to indicate their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, whose logo adorned the back of every shirt. The symbolism was powerful; let us hope that we soon progress to action.
Not very much happened after that, both sides looking short of fitness, save for one major moment. Ollie Norwood swung in a free-kick and, under pressure from John Egan, Orjan Nyland made a mess, wrapping himself around the far post, ball touching side-netting. For some reason, though, the referee’s watch lacked the same match-fitness as the players, failing to vibrate, so play went on because Michael Oliver decided not to check with VAR based on what his eyes showed him.
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If anything, the match got worse after the break. Villa remained on top but created less, and there were no certain chances, never mind clear goals bafflingly disallowed. Still, the Premier League is back!
- Premier League players take a knee at kick-off
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Will more games be like this? Villa need points to stay up and Blades need point to qualify for Europe, but despite not having played for three months, both sides were lacklustre, slow of foot and thought. Given the stakes, perhaps the players suffered from a lack of fitness and the lack of crowd failed to make up the adrenaline shortfall - in which case, we may see more of the same during the next couple of weeks. Or will some teams find what they need?
Aston Villa und Sheffield United gehen auf die Knie
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Keinan Davis (Aston Villa): This is a terrible choice to be forced to make, but Davis put himself about on debut, especially in the first half, causing John Egan problems. He should have scored one, almost scored another, and looks a decent prospect.
Aston Villa: Nyland 5, Konsa 6, Hause 6, Mings 6, Targett 6, DouglasLuiz 6, McGinn 5, Hourihane 6, El Ghazi 5, Davis 6, Grealish 6. Subs: Sematta 6, Trezeguet 6, Nakamba 6, Elmohamady 6.
Sheffield United: Henderson 6, Basham 6, Egan 5, Robinson 6, Baldock 5, Norwood 5, Lundstram 5, Berge 5, Stevens 5, Sharp 5, McBurnie 5. Subs: Freeman 6, McGoldrick 6, Mousset 6.
11’ - CHANCE! Villa win another corner and Grealish picks out Hause at the back post; he heads over to the far, and there's Davis, five yards out! He's going to score a debut goal! No he isn't! Berge stands up really well, getting right in the way, and Davis heads over. That was a very good chance.
35’ - WIDE! Another left-wing corner for Villa, Hourihane with it, and he swings it out .. and Hause is there! But he bumps into the ball rather than heads the ball - in fairness, it's at a difficult height - and it trickles wide.
42’ - GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY FAILS! Eesh! Blades win a free-kick down the left and Norwood swings it in ... it's rubbish, but Nyland makes a right old mess of it under pressure from Egan, finding himself wrapped around the post and inside the side-netting, ball kissing net. That's a goal, is that, but it seems that VAR is still in pre-season mode, so the watch doesn't vibrate and the ref waves play on. Why didn’t he check?
52’ - GOOD STOP! Targett lifts a ball over the Blades defence and Davis shows for it yet again, controlling beautifully on his chest and swinging a left-footer goalwards ... but Henderson is there, pranging it behind. That's a good save.
58’ - WASTE! Aaaarggghhh! Grealish drives through rte centre-circle - is he no longer playing off the left? - then sends El Ghazi away with a gorgeously weighted pass into the his stride. Davis is in the middle, and El Ghazi sees him, then smacks his low cross just too hard for the striker's lunge. That was very silly, because any kind of sensible ball and it was 1-0.
60’ - SAVE! Grealish turns up on the aforementioned left and glides a ball back to McGinn on the edge of the box; he takes a touch, then tries to fox Henderson by outswinging a left-footer, but Henderson reads him and flies to his left to tip around the post. The corner comes to nowt.
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