Sheffield United: 'VAR nearly killed us'

Speaking before a match influenced by one of their player's shoe size as well as several moments of brilliance and a rare defensive lapse, Mauricio Pochettino had compared Sheffield United to a rugby team because of their fighting spirit.

Sunday, 10th November 2019, 4:27 pm
Sheffield United's George Baldock (second left) celebrates scoring his side's goal: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire.

It was a well-meaning comment, designed to highlight the character and togetherness which saw them finish the fixture ranked fifth in the table. But given the hackneyed narrative which followed his squad's rise out of the Championship, it appeared to re-open old wounds for Chris Wilder when relayed to him afterwards.

This he reminded, head bowed and sighing outside Tottenham Hotspur's cavernous new media suite, had been no kick and chase performance.

George Baldock, however, knew different. Revealing details of a post-game conversation with a former MK Dons team mate, the United wing-back explained the Argentine and his players had actually been trying to convey respect.

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"I played for a long time with Dele Alli so I had a brief chat with him after," Baldock, whose second-half goal wiped out Heung-Min Son's opener, said. "He congratulated us.

"He's watched us a few times on the television and he's been surprised with how well we've played. It's lovely to hear things like that from such a top-quality player."

Baldock's strike might have been fortuitous - his angled drive, which flew past Paulo Gazzaniga, appeared to have been intended to reach Chris Basham rather than the back of Spurs' net - but it ensured the visitors took a deserved point from a contest which, until then, had threatened to be overshadowed by another VAR controversy.

Despite being the dominant force, United fell behind when a mistake by Enda Stevens presented Son with the chance to score. David McGoldrick immediately struck back, sweeping home a low cross from his fellow Republic of Ireland international, but the video official deemed John Lundstram had strayed offside during the build-up. Real-time replays not only cast doubt on Jonathan Moss' use of technology but suggested, even if it had been applied correctly, Lundstram's boot had been millimeters in front of Eric Dier.

"I don't recall us going through calls as tight as that when the referees spoke to us in the summer," Baldock said. "They talked a lot about handballs and in this division they've been pretty good with that. I've seen a few in Europe where I've thought, 'That's harsh!' The offsides, I just don't know any more. If you're playing on the last man as a striker and you've got bigger feet than him, does that mean you're offside?"

"I'm going to sit on the fence a little bit," he added. "It has its pros and cons and Saturday was bitterly disappointing. The margin, it's just a different sized boot, isn't it?

It's so disappointing to have that elation taken away from you. I was so disappointed for David McGoldrick because he doesn't get the plaudits he deserves"

Earlier, Lundstram had seen a shot rebound back off an upright after diverting another Stevens centre wide. Harry Kane missed a good chance for Spurs but United created the better opportunities with Gazzaniga acrobatically denying Oliver Norwood and Lys Mousset also going close.

"I suppose the talk afterwards will be about VAR but I went home revelling in getting a point here, not the fact that VAR's killed us," Baldock said. "David might be different! We all know what we're getting into and hopefully it levels itself out."

Tottenham Hotspur: Gaazaniga, Sanchez, Son, Kane, Dier, Sissoko, Lo Celso, Alli (Foth 72), Aureier (Moura 86), Ndombele (Winks 46), Davies. Not used: Vorm, Alderweireld, Sessegnon, Eriksen.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O;Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram, McGoldrick (L Freeman 90), Mousset (Robinson 88). Not used: Moore, McBurnie, Sharp, Jagielka, Besic.

Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).