Pochettino says VAR is damaging football after Chelsea denied late winner at Aston Villa

Blues fight back to secure 2-2 Premier League draw at Villa Park but had a late goal chalked off by VAR

Axel Disasi scores Chelsea's third goal against Aston Villa before VAR rules it out for a foul. PA
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Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino said VAR is damaging football after watching his team denied a dramatic late winner at Aston Villa on Saturday night.

The Blues fought back from a two-goal deficit at the break to level in the second half and thought they had scored a late winner through an Axel Disasi header. However, a video assistant referee review deemed that Benoit Badiashile had fouled Diego Carlos in the build-up so the points were shared at Villa Park.

"Me and you and everyone in the stadium watching the game, they didn't see a foul on the pitch and then VAR changed the decision of the referee. For me that was a normal challenge. The decision was there and that's it," Pochettino told broadcaster TNT following the 2-2 draw.

"The referee is unbelievable and it's ridiculous. It is difficult to accept," Pochettino said. "They didn't see a foul on the pitch and then VAR changed the decision of the referee. For me that was a normal challenge.

"It is painful as it has damaged English football. Villa's players and their fans didn't understand why the goal was disallowed.

"For me it damaged a little bit the Premier League. If we want to be the best league in the world it should be protecting the spectacle and the decision."

Pochettino's side trailed to Marc Cucurella's early own goal and a Morgan Rogers strike before half-time at Villa Park.

Rather than capitulate as they did in Tuesday's humiliating 5-0 loss at Arsenal, Chelsea dug deep to rescue a gritty point thanks to goals from Noni Madueke and Conor Gallagher.

It could have been even better than the visitors. From a Cole Palmer corner, Badiashile hooked the ball back into the middle of the penalty area for an unmarked Disasi to head in from close range. However, VAR requested referee Craig Pawson to check the goal after the French defender barged Carlos off the ball before his cross to Disasi, and it the goal was subsequently ruled out.

The draw was a blow to Villa's hopes of holding off Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.

Villa are seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who host Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday in the first of three games in hand on Unai Emery's side.

Although Villa, who last finished as high as fourth in 1995-96, remain favourites to clinch the lucrative Champions League berth, they might feel a little nervous if Tottenham win the north London derby on Sunday.

"We wanted to play Europa League last year and now we have a new challenge which is to play Champions League," Emery said. "Chelsea today showed the power. But to draw at the end is a very good result. I want more, of course."

The under-fire Pochettino reportedly retains the backing of Chelsea's ninth-placed squad, which has been assembled for over £1 billion, despite a difficult campaign that included an FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City last weekend.

They proved that point by refusing to surrender against a Villa team that flew at them in a vibrant start.

In the fourth minute, Lucas Digne poked a low cross into the Chelsea six-yard box, where John McGinn's scuffed shot was deflected into his own net by Cucurella.

But Villa's momentum had stalled and they suffered a setback when Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans limped off injured.

Nicolas Jackson was inches away from equalising with a close-range header from Cucurella's cross that glanced off the post. The much-maligned striker should have buried that chance and Ollie Watkins almost made him pay with a powerful drive that Djordje Petrovic saved at his near post.

It was a warning Chelsea failed to heed as Rogers doubled Villa's advantage in the 41st minute.

Matty Cash's pass picked out Rogers and the 21-year-old, given too much time and space on the edge of the area, swept a perfectly-placed strike past Petrovic for his third goal since his January arrival from Middlesbrough.

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez was forced off with an injury at half-time and his replacement Olsen had to pick the ball out of the net in the 62nd minute.

Pau Torres carelessly lost possession, with Gallagher's touch reaching Madueke, who slotted a fine finish past the Swedish keeper from 10 yards.

Madueke almost completed Chelsea's fightback, but his flicked effort was parried by Olsen.

The winger wasn't left to rue that miss as Gallagher rescued a deserved point for Chelsea in the 81st minute with a superb curler into the far corner from the edge of the area.

Updated: April 28, 2024, 5:29 AM