Aston Villa held by Everton after Moreno strike ruled out
LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom (AFP)— Aston Villa’s Premier League title challenge hit a roadblock as Alex Moreno’s strike was controversially disallowed by VAR in Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Everton.
Unai Emery’s side would have moved level on points with leaders Liverpool if they had won at freezing Goodison Park.
But the decision to rule out Moreno’s effort for offside forced Villa to settle for a point that leaves them in third place.
The offside call means Villa have only one win from their last four league games as their unexpected title bid falters.
They are two points behind Liverpool, having played a game more, and sit below second placed Manchester City on goal difference.
Emery was named Premier League manager of the month for December, but the Spaniard will hope Moreno’s disallowed goal isn’t a sign he will suffer from the long-standing ‘curse’ that afflicts winners of the award.
Everton remain precariously poised just one place above the relegation zone after their winless run in the league extended to four games.
Everton’s 10-point deduction earlier this season for financial breaches has kept them mired in the relegation battle.
Beaten in their previous three matches, Sean Dyche’s team are one point clear of third bottom Luton.
With 14 goals and eight assists, Ollie Watkins had been involved in 22 of Villa’s 43 top flight goals.
Watkins threatened to add to that impressive tally when he took Moussa Diaby’s pass and forced a save from Jordan Pickford.
Villa thought they had taken the lead through Moreno’s blast from the edge of the area after a short corner, but the goal was ruled out for a tight offside against Leon Bailey.
The decision only came after a four-minute VAR check, leaving Villa fuming at the perceived injustice.
Fuelled by that grievance, Villa went close to taking the lead twice in quick succession.
Watkins rolled his shot inches wide, then Pickford made a fine save from Bailey after John McGinn’s dummy opened up the Everton defence.
Everton nearly stole the lead as Emiliano Martinez rushed off his line to save from Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the Toffees striker fatally hesitated before pulling the trigger.
James Garner’s low strike forced another good stop from Martinez in the closing moments of the half.
McGinn drilled inches wide midway through a scrappy second half high on perspiration but low on inspiration.
Chances were at a premium and, when they did come, Everton’s Arnaut Danjuma wastefully miscued before Villa’s Jhon Duran had a header saved by Pickford.
Villa defender Matty Cash looked set to score when his attempt was blocked by Vitaliy Mykolenko.
And Everton midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure charged clear to fire home in the closing minutes, only to see his effort correctly disallowed for offside.