Pep Guardiola says Fernando Llorente’s ‘cruel’ winner could have been disallowed
Pep Guardiola has claimed that Fernando Llorente’s "cruel" decisive late winner that sent Tottenham through to the Champions League semi-finals could have been disallowed for handball.
With the match hanging on a knife-edge at 4-2 to Manchester City (4-3 agg.), Spurs needed just one goal to win, via the away goals rule. And, in the 73rd minute, Llorente bundled home the ball home with his hip from inside the six-yard box via a glance off his forearm.
The referee consulted VAR at the behest of City’s players but, after two minute’s deliberation and a protracted check of the pitchside screen, decided to award the goal to the City bench’s dismay.
“I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente’s goal is handball, maybe from the referee’s angle it is not,” Guardiola told BBC Radio 5 Live afterwards.
“It is cruel but it is what it is and we have to accept it.
“After 20 minutes we were 3-2 up. In the second half we created a lot of chances and we scored the goals we needed.
“Unfortunately, it was a bad end for us so congratulations to Tottenham and good luck for the semi-finals.”
Llorente’s goal was only the penultimate, defining twist of VAR controversy as Raheem Sterling celebrated wildly thinking he had completed his hat-trick and won City the tie in stoppage time, only to see the goal ruled out as Sergio Aguero had played the last pass from a fractionally offside position.
But the City boss insisted he was proud of his players, and the fans, and vowed that the team would stand up and react to the disheartening loss that derails their quadruple dreams.
“I am so proud of the players and the fans,” Guardiola continued.
“I have never heard noise like that since I have been in Manchester but football is unpredictable.
“We have to stand up and react. It is a close [short amount of] time and the same team. We can’t think too much now. We have to try to sleep as much as possible and the day before the game we are going to prepare for the game.
“We have fought for nine or 10 months in the Premier League and still we are there. It is in our hands. Today is tough and tomorrow will be tough too but the day after we will be ready.”