Sheffield United climb to fifth in the Premier League as VAR comes to their rescue...for once
Two months after branding it ridiculous when it cost his team at Tottenham Hotspur and less than one following a series of controversies during their visit to Manchester City, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder finally had reason to thank VAR.
Leading through Oli McBurnie’s second-half effort and on the verge of another famous Premier League victory, United’s hopes of snatching fifth place in the table appeared to have been thwarted when Robert Snodgrass pounced deep into stoppage time.
But as the West Ham substitute celebrated and David Moyes went crazy along the touchline, referee Michael Oliver referred the matter to Stockley Park where, following a brief review of the build-up, the officials ruled Declan Rice guilty of handball.
“I feel for David,” Wilder admitted. “Because he’s a fellow manager.
“It’s gone against us in the past, as everyone knows. Now it’s someone else’s turn to be on the receiving end. But of course, I’m delighted with the win.”
Wilder’s joy masked his concern about aspects of United’s performance which he picked apart afterwards.
Criticising their failure to “press” and “put things to bed”, the 52-year-old’s analysis proved he wants to keep “driving things forward” after twice leading the club to promotion since taking charge in 2016.
“We gave the ball away a little cheaply,” Wilder said, after signing a new contract earlier in the day. “But sometimes you forget a below-par performance when you get a big result and I think that was the case out there.”
After a subdued first-half, a mistake by West Ham’s substitute goalkeeper David Martin turned out to be the fixture’s defining moment. On for the injured Lukasz Fabianski, his poor pass handed possession to John Fleck who, after powering through, squared for McBurnie to score.
Lys Mousset and George Baldock enjoyed chances afterwards before Dean Henderson twice denied Manuel Lanzini as West Ham went in search of an equaliser.
It appeared to have arrived when Snodgrass profited from Rice’s industry and found the back of the net. But, much to Moyes’ confusion, the strike was ruled-out.
“It looked a good goal to me,” he said. “And I’ve seen the replay. If you’re a football man, and I’ve been in this business for a while now, then that can only be a goal surely?”
Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram (Besic 70), McGoldrick (Mousset 60), McBurnie (Sharp 83). Not used: Eastwood, Robinson, Jagielka, Osborn.
West Ham: Fabianski (Martin 14), Cresswell, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Anderson, Lanzini (Fornals 83), Noble, Ogbonna, Haller, Masuaku (Snodgrass 69), Rice. Not used: Cardoso, Diop, Rosa, Ngakai.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).