Erling Haaland was left incensed by referee Simon Hooper’s decision to blow his whistle as Manchester City looked set to break against Tottenham Hotspur in the final stages of the 3-3 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
Haaland had been fouled but unleashed Jack Grealish through on goal, however, the move was halted by the referee who received the full wroth of the City striker. Numerous City players surrounded Hooper and Pep Guardiola remonstrated with the fourth official.
After the final whistle, Haaland departed the pitch visibly upset and shortly afterwards posted on X, formerly Twitter, ‘WTF’ above a clip of the incident. In his post-match press conference, Guardiola was asked about the decision and responded: “Next question. I will not do a Mikel Arteta comment.
“It is hard when you review the image: the referee decides to blow the whistle after he has already said to play on. After the pass, the whistle, so I do not understand this action.”
Guardiola was referring to Arteta’s comments after Anthony Gordon’s winner for Newcastle United against Arsenal was allowed to in the wake of three VAR checks. Arteta called the decision “an absolute disgrace”.
When asked about his striker’s reaction at the end of the game, the City manager replied: “It’s normal. His reaction was the same for 10 players. The rules are you cannot talk with the referees or fourth officials so we should have had 10 players sent off today.
“He’s a little bit disappointed. Even the referee, if he played for Man City today he would be disappointed for that action, that’s for sure.”
Guardiola did not blame the late refereeing decision for the result. “I make mistakes, the players make mistakes. I don’t want to criticise him,” he said.
“On the touchline sometimes I lose my mind and my gestures are not proper but here normally for many years as a manager I’m not a guy when I’m refreshed [calm] to comment. But I would say we didn’t draw for that.”
Ange Postecoglou admitted that Spurs had perhaps been fortunate when asked if his side had “got away with one” in that instance. “Yeah, I guess so, mate,” the Tottenham manager said.
Haaland and Guardiola could be charged by the Football Association if it concludes that they have questioned the referee’s integrity.
'Results have not come for us lately'
It came at the climax of a thrilling game that finished with the spoils shared and Spurs arresting their three-game losing run and City remaining three points behind leaders Arsenal.
Heung-min Son opened the scoring on six minutes before the Spurs captain’s own goal equalised three minutes later. City took the lead via Phil Foden, Giovani Lo Celso levelled after the break, Grealish made it 3-2, and Dejan Kulusevski’s late goal shared the points.
City have now drawn their last three Premier League games. “It’s not the first time we have faced this situation where we are playing good but results don’t come,” Guardiola added. “Always we find a solution but lately the results don’t come and we are struggling.”
Spurs were culpable of being too open and allowed City to play through them on occasions, but Postecoglou remains committed to his approach even if it is belt-and-braces stuff at times.
“City could have blown us away, they certainly had enough chances,” he said. “We were giving the ball away a lot but hung in there.
“The effort the boys put in there in the second half was outstanding. City never got total control of the game and we scored three quality goals, which you have to against a team like that.”