It’s not football anymore. The Wolves crowd’s verdict at the latest VAR controversy echoed the views of many who love the game as those studying the screens at Stockley Park again overshadowed an absorbing Premier League encounter.
Willy Boly thought he had given Wolves the lead on the cusp of half-time, only for team-mate Pedro Neto to be deemed offside in the build-up, long after referee Mike Dean had given the goal.
It was another of those fractional decisions that infuriate, with the Wolves Twitter feed claiming ‘one of Neto’s studs’ – it was actually his left heel – had been in an illegal position after a short corner, and captain Conor Coady raging at Dean as he walked off at half-time.
Conor Coady complains to referee Mike Dean after Wolves’ goal was ruled out by VAR
Willy Boly headed in but the goal was disallowed for an offside by Jota earlier in the move
Hamza Choudhury was sent off for a second yellow which appeared as rash as his first booking
It was easy to understand the anger. VAR also cost Wolves what would have been the winner in the reverse fixture at Leicester on the opening day of the season – the first of four goals chalked off by VAR for them this term.
With Manchester City set to miss the next two editions of the Champions League, fifth place this season may be good enough to reach the competition. Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo will surely be wondering if these marginal calls will deny his team a shot at it.
‘I hope whoever decides these things will look at what is happening, not only for us as professionals but for the fans, especially the fans,’ he said. ‘Something has to be done.
‘When you have something and someone takes it away from you, you don’t like it – especially a goal, which is really hard to achieve. It has happened many times for us but it is about what kind of game we want to see and how fans will react to it.
‘It is very hard for players to sustain their level of concentration at these kind of decisions. When they see the images, it is even worse.
Matt Doherty needed lengthy treatment after he was caught by Leicester’s James Maddison
Ayoze Perez battled to keep possession for Leicester in what was a closely-fought encounter
‘There used to be an expression here in England about ‘clear daylight’ in these decisions. I just want things to improve. We are not judging the work of the referees here.’
With Jamie Vardy now without a league goal for Leicester in nearly two months, Wolves created the better chances against a side reduced to 10 men in the 76th minute when Hamza Choudhury was sent off, though this point may prove crucial in their own attempt to reach Europe’s elite.
Brendan Rodgers’ team now have an 11-point cushion to fifth-placed Sheffield United, and the Foxes boss admitted VAR needs examining even though his team benefited this time.
He said: ‘It’s difficult when [something like] your little toe is offside and you’re being judged on that – it’s tough for players and managers. It needs to be reviewed at the end of the season and I’m sure that will be the case.
Wolves players celebrated the goal before it was ruled out by Michael Oliver on VAR
Jamie Vardy was leading the attack for Leicester but he was blunted by a resolute defence
Coady confronted Mike Dean at half time who was overheard saying he hadn’t seen the offside
‘There were always going to be issues, but there have been lots of times where it has worked well and we have to stay with it.’
Leicester would have been delighted to see both Adama Traore and Joao Moutinho – two of Wolves’ key players – left on the bench as they were carrying knocks, while in front of Gareth Southgate, their Euro 2020 hopefuls James Maddison and Harvey Barnes were seeking to make an impression.
Maddison was shown an early yellow card for a raised boot that caught the head of Matt Doherty, who needed lengthy treatment and had blood flowing from the wound throughout the game.
The key moment came a minute before half-time when VAR ruled out a Wolves goal against Leicester for the second time this season.
Boly headed in from close range after Doherty had nodded Neto’s cross back into the danger zone, yet the goal was scrubbed due to the position Neto, who had collected a return pass Jota following a short corner.
Choudhury (left) is shown his first yellow card for a bad foul which had few complaints
Nuno and members of his staff directed their anger at fourth official Robert Jones and when the half-time whistle went, Coady continued his discussion with Dean as they walked down the tunnel, with Neves and Neto also chipping in.
Having initially waited for Dean on the touchline, Nuno thought better of it and instead walked away shaking his head.
Wolves had looked more dangerous in the first half but at the start of the second, Leicester twice came close.
First Romain Saiss did well to block Ayoze Perez’s close-range attempt at the far post, and then Ricardo Pereira fired over from an angle after weaving his way into the area.
With 25 minutes remaining, Nuno sent on his star man, with Traore cheered on to the pitch as he replaced Neto.
Adama Traore was sent on with 25 minutes to go but was unable to score the winner
Raul Jimenez headed substitute Moutinho’s corner wide from eight yards in the final minutes
Traore could not unlock the door immediately but Wolves’ push for victory received a boost when Choudhury was sent off for a second booking.
The second challenge, on Leander Dendoncker, was as rash as the first, on Raul Jimenez in the first half, though Rodgers felt the first yellow was harsh. ‘Hamza was on the stretch but he got his foot to the ball,’ he argued. ‘It was unfortunate.’
With blood pouring from Doherty’s cut, the Irishman looked like Terry Butcher in 1989, leading England to a 0-0 vital draw in their 1990 World Cup qualification campaign. The same result here will bring Wolves far less satisfaction, especially when two more late chances were missed.
Jimenez headed substitute Moutinho’s corner wide from eight yards and Traore’s powerful drive was pushed away by Schmeichel in stoppage time.
Brendan Rodgers applauded the Leicester fans after his team battled to a crucial away point