BIRMINGHAM, England, June 17 (Reuters) - The operators of the goalline technology system used in the Premier League apologised for an embarrassing failure after Sheffield United were denied a clear goal in their match against Aston Villa on Wednesday.
In the Premier League’s first match after a 100-day hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis, Sheffield United were denied when Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland carried the ball back over his own line in a clumsy defensive mix-up just before halftime.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said after the game, which was played behind closed doors at Villa Park.
“The feeling at the time by everybody, both sets of players and staff, was that of a goal.”
Off-balance Villa goalkeeper Nyland caught a curling free kick but was bundled back over the line by team mate Keinan Davis.
Referee Michael Oliver, 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.
Hawk-Eye, who operate the goalline system, issued a statement after the game saying the seven cameras in the stands around the goal area were obstructed by the keeper, defender and goalpost.
“This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation,” the company said, while fans furiously vented on social media about the technological slipup.
There was also no intervention from the Video Assistant Referee despite TV viewers being able to see the ball had clearly crossed the line.
“Under the IFAB protocol, the VAR is able to check goal situations, however due to the fact that the on-field match officials did not receive a signal, and the unique nature of that, the VAR did not intervene,” the PGMO, body responsible for match officials in English professional football, said in a separate explanation.
Wilder asked to speak to Oliver at halftime.
“The referee said it had the feel of a goal but he has to rely on Hawk-Eye. We believe it should have been referred and asked for it,” he said.
The draw moved Sheffield United up to sixth place, one point behind Manchester United in fifth. (Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)