Football Features

VAR steals show again: The winners & losers as Wolves share points with Leicester

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:11, 14 February 2020

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City played out a goalless draw on a drab night of football.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side thought they had taken the lead just before half-time when Willy Boly headed in, but the strike was ruled out for offside by VAR.

Neither team could find the breakthrough afterwards in what was a poor night for both attacks.

Winner: Willy Boly

Although many will have wanted a goal fest on Friday night to fulfil their Valentine’s Day needs, sometimes you have to admire a quality defensive performance. And that’s exactly what Willy Boly put in.

The French centre-back was rock solid at the back for Wolves, dealing with absolutely everything thrown at him. Defensively, he ensured the visiting attack had a frustratingly quiet night alongside Conor Coady and Romain Saiss, securing the clean sheet.

He also asserted his dominance in the opposition area, causing problems for Leicester’s defence with two towering headers from set pieces. The first was awkward for Kasper Schmeichel to deal with, but the Leicester goalkeeper did manage to stop it. And the second saw Boly leave Youri Tielemans on the ground to head in from close range after Leicester had failed to clear a corner. The goal was eventually ruled out for offside, but that shouldn’t take away from Boly’s power in the air.

In total, he won seven aerial duals, more than any other player on the pitch.

Loser: The attackers

Going into the game, many will have been excited about Raul Jimenez and Jamie Vardy facing off. The pair have been particularly devastating in front of goal for their respective teams, with Vardy the Premier League’s top scorer.

But it was a night to forget for both as they were frustrated, albeit in two different ways. For Jimenez, a quiet start was improved upon but the Mexican just couldn’t find the target with any of his five shots – missing good chances to seal all there points for his side. Even when Adama Traore came on, the pair couldn’t get their partnership up and running, with the Spaniard failing to create too much being marked well by Ben Chilwell.

As for Vardy, you could be forgiven for forgetting the Englishman was on the pitch. He went into the game on a run of five without scoring and didn’t look like breaking that duck at all. Failing to have a single shot, Vardy managed just 20 touches of the ball, fewer than any other player who started the game including the goalkeepers.

Winner: Europe chasers

While Wolves and Leicester fans will have been focusing on the game, undeniably the biggest story of Friday night was Manchester City’s two-year ban from Uefa club competitions pending results of their appeal.

As things stand Pep Guardiola’s side are out, and with them currently in second, their Champions League spot would essentially be handed down to the team finishing in fifth. Not only does that open the door for an outsider to get Champions League football, but it could also affect the Europa League qualification.

If fifth gets Champions League then sixth will qualify for the Europa League. But, as always, the cup competitions could see an extra two teams in the Europa League on league position – seventh and eighth. With Wolves drawing, currently seventh, they have kept the possibility open for some teams to still qualify for European football despite their hopes previously looking over.

Everton are on level points with Wolves while Manchester United could overtake Nuno Espirito Santo’s side with a win against Chelsea on Monday. Arsenal would also be back in with a small chance and could move to within two points of Wolves if they beat Newcastle.

Of course, all that would be nulled if Man City are successful in their appeal but until then, the excitement continues.

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Loser: Hamza Choudhury

After looking like a regular in the starting XI, Hamza Choudhury has had a frustrating season, losing his Leicester spot with Brendan Rodgers’ switch in formation to a 4-1-4-1. With only spot spot for a defensive midfielder there is only one option for that role at Leicester: Wilfred Ndidi.

But the Nigerian has been struggling with injury problems of late, allowing Choudhury a chance to impress himself, and he has started Leicester’s past two games. But having impressed against Chelsea before the winter break, Choudhury showed a level of inexperience that may see him out of the team once more.

Having received a booking shortly after half-time, Choudhury lost control of the ball in the final 15 minutes and stretched to try and win it back from Leander Dendoncker. Instead, he missed the ball and got the Belgian, earning a second yellow card no one could argue with. Not only did it leave Leicester fighting with 10 men for the remainder of the match, but it also gives Rodgers a potential dilemma.

Should Ndidi still be injured, who starts in the defensive midfield role for Leicester’s game against Man City next week?

Winner: Ricardo Pereira

Boly was not the only defender to enjoy Friday night, with Ricardo Pereira also having an impressive game – albeit for different reasons.

The Portuguese full-back appeared to be Leicester’s best attacking outlet at times with his lung-busting runs down the right, overtaking Ayoze Perez and Marc Albrighton.

Although he created only one chance, he was a constant threat and gave the pairing of Jonny and Saiss a tough evening. He also did his bit defensively, making two tackles and two clearances to as Leicester kept a clean sheet despite going a man down. It won’t be Pereira’s best game in a Leicester shirt but it certainly was a good one.

Loser: VAR

VAR can’t win.

When Boly headed into the net just before half-time, everyone expected the goal to stand. To the naked eye, there was no offsides and it was as clean a goal as you could get. But, as with every goal, VAR took a look just to be certain.

It found that Pedro Neto’s heel, when receiving the ball back following his short corner, was slightly behind Ben Chilwell – the last Leicester defender. As soon as the red and blue lines appeared, there was only going to be one outcome, a free-kick for offside.

This was 100 per cent the right decision, and although it was a close call, it certainly wasn’t the millimetre calls that have infuriated fans this season. Yet there was still backlash. The Wolves fans were chanting ‘It’s not football anymore’, the pundits were criticising VAR and it was once again the talk on social media. All this despite the call actually being correct.