By Neil Robinson
LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City kept up their pursuit of leaders Liverpool with a routine 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on a day when VAR stole the Premier League headlines with a series of decisions that left supporters baffled and managers incensed.
The confusion was greatest at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium where the big screen flashed up that VAR had disallowed Dele Alli’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Watford, only for the referee to signal that the goal stood.
Technology also denied Burnley an equaliser in a 2-1 defeat at Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers two goals in their 1-1 draw with Southampton, and Aston Villa an opener in their 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Less controversially, Chelsea beat Newcastle United 1-0 and Everton overturned West Ham United 2-0 while the game between Bournemouth and Norwich City ended goalless.
There was little to dispute in Manchester City’s win at Palace which, with Liverpool resting ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, cut the gap at the top to five points.
Gabriel Jesus and David Silva netted twice inside a minute for City, who returned to winning ways after two defeats in four league games.
The visitors should have had more, with Raheem Sterling particularly wasteful, but victory came with the bonus of a cameo showing from fit-again John Stones, whose return will ease their defensive crisis.
Spurs, who had conceded 10 goals in their previous two games, looked to be heading for a fifth defeat in six matches after Abdoulaye Doucoure put Watford ahead.
But Alli took advantage of a flap by keeper Ben Foster on 86 minutes and put the ball in the net after it brushed his shoulder. Although the VAR check ruled the strike legitimate, the big screen indicated “no goal” before it was corrected.
“I was sure it didn’t hit my hand but then you start thinking did it?,” said Alli. “I tried to make sure it didn’t touch it so I could get the strike away.
Watford felt they should have had an earlier penalty but, in common with most other instances in the league this season, VAR refused to overrule the referee, who indicated that Gerard Deulofeu had not been fouled by Jan Vertonghen.
At the King Power Stadium, Leicester moved third, two points behind City, in a game where technology also proved decisive.
Burnley’s Chris Wood was denied a second goal when he was adjudged to have fouled Jonny Evans in the build-up, a decision that left Burnley manager Sean Dyche furious.
“I’m a big fan of VAR but it has to be used more wisely than that,” he said. “Their defender is never going to get that in a million years. There was a touch, but there is no intention in the touch and his gait doesn’t change.”
At Molineux, Raul Jimenez put the ball into the back of the net three times before having a goal count after two first-half efforts were disallowed. But his persistence eventually paid off as Wolves cancelled out Danny Ings’s opener for Southampton.
Asked about VAR, Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo said: “It is what it is. I hope it gets better.”
Matt Targett’s late winner helped Aston Villa come from behind to beat 10-man Brighton 2-1 as Dean Smith celebrated his one-year anniversary in charge. Technology was involved once again, with Conor Hourihane having an early strike ruled out for Villa.
“I’m lost and scratching my head with the whole system,” Smith said.
Pressure eased on Everton manager Marco Silva after overseeing a much-improved performance against West Ham. Excellent goals from Bernard and Gylfi Sigurdsson ended Everton’s run of four consecutive defeats and moved them out of the relegation zone.
At Stamford Bridge, Marcos Alonso’s second-half strike gave Chelsea the narrowest of wins over Newcastle — their fifth in succession in all competitions — to move them fourth.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond)