After ‘Project Restart’ began with a scoreless draw between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, there was plenty to talk about as the Etihad Stadium witnessed the first Premier League goals in 100 days.
City emerged 3-0 victors against Arsenal in front of empty stands as Pep Guardiola comfortably overcame former assistant Mikel Arteta, who saw substitute Luiz unravel as he gave away goals either side of half-time and got sent off.
The result meant Jurgen Klopp’s men cannot seal the title at Everton this weekend, even though it remains a matter of when rather than if the Premier League trophy leaves the Etihad Stadium for Anfield.
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Luiz’s disastrous display came on a night of three serious-looking injuries, with the Brazilian replacing Pablo Mari in a match book-ended by Granit Xhaka and Eric Garcia leaving on a stretcher.
The Brazil international may well have wished he stayed on the padded, social-distanced bench after undoing Bernd Leno’s good work by failing to deal with a ball that Raheem Sterling fired home late in the first half.
Things got worse for Luiz shortly after the restart. After receiving a red card for bringing down Riyad Mahrez in the box, Kevin De Bruyne slotted home the spot-kick and substitute Phil Foden scored in stoppage-time to rub salt into Arsenal’s wounds.
This was football but how we knew it in March. Social distancing was in operation as the top-flight resumed amid the pandemic, with the stadium split into zones, hygiene stations dotted everywhere and banners replacing fans in the stands.
It was a surreal experience inside the Etihad Stadium, where the 300-or-so in attendance fell silent before kick-off to remember City great Glyn Pardoe and those impacted by Covid-19.
Arteta’s positive test was the catalyst for English football’s suspension in mid-March and former mentor Guardiola’s mother Dolors Sala Carrio died after contracting the disease.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder was left baffled after the Blades were denied victory at Aston Villa by a technical fault.
Goal-line technology failed to award the visitors a winner after Orjan Nyland carried Oliver Norwood’s first-half free kick over the line.
Referee Michael Oliver’s watch failed to signal the goal and the game – which finished 0-0 – continued.
It stopped the Blades moving above Manchester United into fifth as they continue to mount a surprise European challenge.
Hawk-Eye, which runs the technology, issued a statement apologising for the error, saying the fact goalkeeper Nyland, Keinan Davis and the post were in the way meant no camera saw the ball cross the line.
But Wilder insisted it was clear the ball was over.
“It was in the Holte End, the goalkeeper was in the Holte End and eight rows back. Everyone knew it, saw it and felt it,” he said.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Already the jokes have started, I’ve just seen Del Boy with a Hawk-Eye watch on. It’s all going to come out but we’re pretty disappointed and we’ve got to get on with it.
“I believe a decision should have been made from Stockley Park (the VAR centre). For someone to tell me with seven cameras and this is the first time it’s happened in over 9,000 games it’s a difficult one to take.
“We’ve got Chris Kavanagh (fourth official), one of the best referees in the Premier League and Michael Oliver possibly one of the best referees in Europe and if you ask them they’ll be scratching their heads over how this situation occurred.
“We believe it should have been referred (to VAR).”
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