Wells’ FA Cup dream dashed by contentious VAR decision
Bristol City’s hopes of a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 47 years were dashed last night when they suffered a controversial 1-0 loss away to Sheffield United.
The turning moment in the match came in the 63rd minute when the referee Robert Jones referred to VAR following a handball inside the penalty area when David McGoldrick’s shot from close range was deflected onto the crossbar by defender Alfie Mawson.
The follow-up shot from John Lundstram was cleared off the line by Tomas Kalas, but the official was focused on the first block when he went over to review the replay on the touchline monitor.
Jones awarded a penalty to Sheffield United and then issued Mawson a red card for the handball as City were dealt a double blow. Captain Billy Sharpe placed his spot-kick into the bottom left corner, out of reach of the diving goalkeeper Max O’Leary.
Nahki Wells had a good chance to put City ahead in the first minute of the second half when an opening was created for him on the left side by Joe Williams. However, with the unmarked Jamie Patterson calling for a pass down the middle, Wells opted to take a shot and his effort was straight at the ’keeper who made a comfortable save.
The loss was a bitter pill for manager Dean Holden to swallow, more so with the VAR decision which left the visitors a goal down and a man short. City were looking to advance to the last eight of the cup for the first time since 1974.
“I don’t want to sound bitter because I was pleased with the performance levels but to lose to a VAR decision is hugely disappointing,” Holden said afterwards. “It’s killing the game of football and it’s not the game I grew up loving.
“There was two fantastic bits of defending to keep the ball out of the net and then the VAR decides it is a penalty and we have to take it on the chin.
“They had very limited chances and we had two good opportunities, one in the first half and one right at the start of the second half when Nahki goes through and he had Patterson there for a tap in.
“To lose the game like we did I think is hugely disappointing for everyone. If the game was at Ashton Gate the decision wouldn’t have been given because VAR wouldn’t have been used.
“Why it was used just because the game is it at a Premier League ground is hugely unfair, I’ve never been a fan of VAR.”
Holden added: “I talked to their manager during the period while they looked at the incident and for me it ruins the game, it really does. Nobody wants to see a game of football decided like that but we can’t do anything about it now and we will move on.
“Even after we went to ten men we kept trying to play how we like to and looked dangerous at times. I am proud of the players for doing that and keep going in difficult circumstances.
“What tonight has given us is some belief because we have taken a huge step forward. We have to move on from this because our season is still on from now on.
“Games coming up are against teams around us and they are all massively important.”
City held their own against their Premier League hosts in the first half, with Kalas forcing a one-handed save from ’keeper Aaron Ramsdale in the eighth minute with his shot from the left side of the box following a free kick. A minute later Max Lowe of Sheffield United saw his shot graze the crossbar as United tried to take control of the cup tie.
After Wells’s miss in the second half, United started to stamp their authority on the game as snow began to fall early in the second half.
City battled on with ten men as Wells was substituted in the 73rd minute with the visitors made three substitutions in just three minutes. United kept their grip on the game as they held on for the narrow win that secures their place in today’s quarter-final draw.
For City, they switch their focus back to the Championship promotion race with an away match against fourth place Watford on Saturday. City are tenth in the standings, six points behind sixth-place Bournemouth who occupy the final play-off place.