After 100 long days away, the Premier League finally returned on Wednesday night. It was far from a glorious return, however, as a dreadful 0-0 draw between Aston Villa and Sheffield United was overshadowed by a woeful refereeing mishap.
The moment that everyone will be talking about came with moments to go in the first half. A free kick was whipped in towards the backpost by Oliver Norwood, and Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland made a mess of the situation.
He did catch the ball, but seemed to clearly carry it over the line. However, the goal line technology decision system never went off, so referee Michael Oliver allowed play to go on.
United will have felt hard done by the decision, but Villa were the better team on the night, so maybe a draw is ultimately a fair result considering how boring the game was to watch.
Story of the match
Both sides started slowly, which was to be expected.
Villa thought they should have had a penalty midway through the first half, as Anwar El-Ghazi was clumsily taken down in the area by John Lundstram. There was contact, but the referee did not think there was enough, so play continued.
Then came the aforementioned moment of madness with five minutes to go in the half. A free kick was whipped in towards the far post, and Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland failed to properly deal with the situation, carrying the ball into his own net. However, the goal line technology said otherwise, and since the referee never got a message saying the ball went over the line, he never gave the goal.
All in all, it was a woeful opening 45 minutes, and it was clear to see it was the first serious game either team had played in months.
The home side were better coming out of the halftime break, and were able to force Dean Henderson into some good saves. Keinan Davis came inches from scoring as well, but he just couldn’t get on the end of a cross from El-Ghazi
Villa almost gave away a goal soon after though, as a messed up pass at the back went right to Oliver McBurnie. The Blades forward got the ball to Lundstram, but his shot was blocked at the last moment.
Other than those few half chances, neither team managed to create much, so a draw is likely the most fair result.
Shaking off the rust
This game was not a pretty one to say the very least.
Neither side were known for their attacking abilities going into the contest, but fans were still hoping to see some exciting action on the night. The fact that a refereeing mishap was the most interesting thing to happen says it all really.
No one can blame Villa or United, of course, as it was the first official game either had played in months. Everyone knew the players would be rusty to start, and it was evident to see early on. Passes were being misplayed, defenders were making mistakes, and there were not as many forward runs being made as before.
The same thing happened to teams in the Bundesliga, as it took a few games before they began to find their groove once again. That’ll happen in due time with teams in the EPL as well, but for now, supporters have to get used to some scrappy football.
Man of the match: Jack Grealish
As the saying goes, form is temporary, class is permanent.
Jack Grealish was the only player who really stood out on either side this game, showing just how much quality he has. It certainly didn’t look like the Englishman had just returned from a lengthy hiatus, as he was dribbling and passing the ball as well as ever.
Villa’s only real attacking threat, Grealish tried his best to get his team on the scoresheet, but was just not able to break down a solid United defense. Still, it was yet another strong showing from him, proving why he’s so highly coveted by the Premier League’s elite.