BIRMINGHAM, England, June 17 (Reuters) - Aston Villa and Sheffield United drew 0-0 on Wednesday as the Premier League returned to action after a 100-day hiatus due to COVID-19 with strong anti-racism statements and immediate controversy.
Technology was thrust back into the spotlight as the visitors appeared to be denied a goal at an empty Villa Park, when Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland looked as if he had carried the ball over the goalline.
The players and match officials all took a knee on the opening whistle as the league formally joined worldwide protests against racism, sparked by the death of George Floyd in America.
The players’ names on the back of their shirts were replaced with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ and there was a moment’s silence before kickoff in memory of those who died in the COVID-19 health crisis, which included the father of Villa manager Dean Smith.
The home side enjoyed a let-off just before the break when an off-balance Nyland caught a curling free kick but was bundled back over the line by team mate Keinan Davis in a clumsy defensive mix-up.
Yet the referee, pointing to his watch, looked to indicate that goalline technology had not verified the ball had crossed the line, despite what appeared to be clear evidence on TV replays.
There was no intervention from VAR. A signal usually beeps on the match official’s watch to confirm if the ball has crossed the line.
Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis