Manchester City were on the right side of some contentious decisions as Sergio Aguero’s controversial goal and a late Kevin De Bruyne effort earned a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday.
With Premier League leaders Liverpool having extended the gap at the top with a win over Wolves, City were fortunate not to fall behind in the first half when Lys Mousset had a goal harshly disallowed by VAR.
However, there was more controversy to follow, with the visitors incensed after referee Chris Kavanagh failed to stop the play despite accidentally blocking off John Fleck in the build-up to Sergio Aguero’s opener.
VAR did come to the Blades’ assistance when it deemed John Egan had not deliberately handled a Riyad Mahrez shot, though City had the points wrapped up when De Bruyne lashed in with eight minutes remaining.
With Mousset having squandered an early header, United thought they had the lead when the striker kept his cool to slot beyond Claudio Bravo, who was starting in place of the suspended Ederson, only for VAR to disallow the goal for a marginal offside call.
Mousset got the better of City’s defence again prior to half-time, yet sliced his effort into the side-netting after latching onto Oliver Norwood’s pass.
Despite their poor display, City took the lead six minutes into the second half – Aguero clinically drilling in his 10th league goal of the season.
United were adamant the goal should not have stood due to the referee’s accidental interference, but VAR once more went against them.
City then wanted a penalty when Egan blocked Mahrez’s shot, though their claims were rejected despite the ball hitting the defender’s arm.
Any hopes of a comeback were ended soon after as De Bruyne calmly swept home, though Billy Sharp went agonisingly close to setting up a grandstand finish with a looping header which hit the upright and rolled across the line as United’s unbeaten run on the road came to an end at nine.
What does it mean? City give themselves breathing room
With Liverpool so far ahead, the title race seems all but over, though City could have been looking over their shoulder had they failed to win, with Chelsea coming from behind to beat Arsenal earlier on Sunday.
As it is, the champions have restored the six-point gap between themselves and Frank Lampard’s side, though they still sit a point behind Leicester City in second.
Aguero rediscovers his home comforts
It was a far from a vintage all-round display from Aguero, but when he was put through by De Bruyne’s pass, he never looked likely to fluff his lines to score his first home league goal since November 2.
City’s ramshackle defence get lucky thanks to VAR
Hindered by a lack of options, Pep Guardiola handed a first Premier League start to 18-year-old Eric Garcia, though the youngster – alongside Fernandinho – was often caught out by the pace of Mousset and the speed of United’s counters.
Indeed, only a marginal offside decision sparred City’s blushes. They will surely look to bring in defensive reinforcements in January.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton visit the Etihad Stadium on New Year’s Day, while the Blades visit runaway leaders Liverpool on Thursday.