Guardiola Liverpool City

Guardiola thought VAR would bring justice for Man City - so far it's only caused pain

Pep Guardiola started the season as a supporter of Video Assistant Referees, now he refuses to even discuss it.

"The reason for [it] is to bring more justice, to be more fair and that is the only reason I like VAR," the Manchester City boss said after the opening weekend victory over West Ham when a Raheem Sterling goal was ruled out for a miniscule offside.

Three months on, his only answer to questions about VAR decisions is to point reporters in the direction of referees' chief Mike Riley.

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Guardiola was seething after the opening goal in the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool which started when the ball struck the arm of Trent Alexander-Arnold inside his own penalty area and ended with a fabulous Fabinho strike 22 seconds later.

The merits of whether City should have had a penalty or not can't even be agreed by ex-referees - Mark Halsey says yes, Bobby Madley says no.

But it was yet another day when a VAR decision didn't go City's way and another reason why Guardiola can't be seen to be getting the justice he craved.

His support for technology can be traced back to Anfield and City's Champions League quarter-final exit in 2018.

Liverpool were awesome on the night but it could have been a different evening had VAR been in place.

Mohamed Salah looked offside in the build-up to the opening goal while Leroy Sane wasn't when he set up Gabriel Jesus for an 89th minute goal wrongly chalked off.

Pep Guardiola Manchester City vs Liverpool Champions League 2017-18Getty Images

Even trailing by three goals, Guardiola believed his side could fight back and would have led the second leg 2-0 in the first half had a Sane goal not been ridiculously ruled out.

The City boss was sent off after marching onto the pitch at half-time to tell referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz that the five officials had missed the ball rebounding off Liverpool's James Milner to Sane rather than off a City player.

Guardiola again called for its introduction the following season after another ludicrous decision at the Etihad Stadium, this time in his side's favour. Sterling was awarded a penalty when he kicked the floor and fell over in the 6-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

By the knockout stages it had arrived and VAR awarded City a penalty in the quarter-final first leg against Tottenham, missed by Sergio Aguero.

There was more controversy in the second leg when Fernando Llorente bundled in a winner with his arm and a Sterling injury-time goal was ruled out by a marginal offside after wild celebrations. While Llorente's handball was missed, Guardiola said it was the right decision to rule out Sterling's goal but described the circumstances as "cruel".

VAR was to twist the knife even further when City had another injury-time winner against the same opponents exactly four months later ruled out for, of all things, handball. No-one inside the Etihad saw the ball brush Aymeric Laporte's arm on the way through to Jesus but it was spotted in Stockley Park.

Guardiola also believed that City should have had a penalty in the same game for a push on Rodri by Erik Lamela. "The VAR people must have been having a cup of coffee at that moment,” he quipped.

David Silva Bournemouth vs Manchester City 2019-20Getty Images

A week later he wasn't' quite as jovial after another decision at Bournemouth. David Silva was caught by Jefferson Lema for a foul that, weeks later, the Premier League admitted should have been given as a penalty.

Guardiola resorted to sarcasm to show his disdain. "It was clear hands in the last game, clear hands. But a penalty today, no, please," he said at the Vitality Stadium.

It was a similar response when Wilfried Zaha pushed Kevin De Bruyne to the floor in the box in a win over Crystal Palace five weeks later.

“It’s diving. It’s diving, it’s diving," he said. “Every weekend, it is diving - Bournemouth, here - but against Tottenham it was hands, real hands in the 94th minute.”

It all led to the scenes at the end of Sunday's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, which has left his side nine points behind in the title race.

Frustrated, Guardiola was seen shaking referee Michael Oliver's hand on the pitch and sarcastically saying: "Thank you, very much."

Moments earlier, he was filmed angrily thrusting two fingers at fourth official Mike Dean after a second handball was turned away in an image that launched a thousand memes.

By the time of the press conference, he simply answered questions about the controversies by redirecting inquisitors to Riley.

"Every time I’m being asked why one day it’s handball, the next day it’s not. Don’t ask me, ask to them," he said.

Guardiola had a meeting with Riley in 2017 after a list of inconsistent decisions but it went so badly that he has no desire to meet him again.

He hoped VAR would sort out those inconsistencies. So far it hasn't.