LONDON, United Kingdom, Jun 17 – The Premier League was immediately embroiled in a technology row as it made its comeback on Wednesday, while players showed their solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Manchester City breezed past Arsenal.
AFP Sport looks at some of the key things from top-flight football’s return after a three-month coronavirus hiatus.
Tech misses Nyland blooper
A technology black hole spared Orjan Nyland’s blushes when the Aston Villa goalkeeper somehow got away with stumbling back into his own goal with the ball, allowing the struggling outfit to escape with a goalless draw against Champions League-chasing Sheffield United.
United players appealed wildly after Nyland clearly took Oliver Norwood’s first half free-kick over the line, only for neither goalline technology nor VAR to tell referee Michael Oliver that a goal should have been awarded.
Oliver had no choice but to let play continue to the astonishment of the United players, and Hawk-Eye, whose technology is supposed to alert match officials when the ball crosses the line, admitted its seven cameras had all missed a goal which could seriously damage United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
Players take a knee for BLM
All four teams in Wednesday night’s fixtures took a knee in honour of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the players wearing shirts bearing the slogan throughout the match.
The gesture comes following the death of black American George Floyd at the hands of police last month, which sparked protests around the world and led to sports people showing solidarity with those demonstrations.
Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang raised his fist as he took the knee ahead of his side’s clash with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Sterling back in the goals
Raheem Sterling scored his first Manchester City goal of the calendar year against Arsenal as Pep Guardiola’s side recommenced their season in the simplest possible fashion.
England forward Sterling had not scored for City since hitting a double at Wolverhampton Wanderers in December, but slotted home the opener in City’s 3-0 win just before half time at the Etihad to end his drought on his first match of the restart.
Sterling has been one of Britain’s most vocal footballers on the subject of racism and said on Tuesday that “now is the time to act” on inequalities as protests have spread worldwide.
Hygiene rules the roost
AS with the Bundesliga, La Liga and soon to be Serie A, the Premier League is only taking place thanks to a raft of health regulations that aim to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more people in the United Kingdom than any other country in Europe.
Widespread disinfection took place on Wednesday including of changing facilities, dugouts, match balls, goalposts, corner flags and substitution boards, while everyone other than players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings.
Players did not shake hands before either game and they were told that they should not spit or clear their noses. However City players did celebrate with Phil Foden after he scored their third late on.