Furious Dean Smith admitted asking referee Jon Moss if he had “got juggling balls for Christmas” after allowing Man City’s opener against his Aston Villa side to stand.

Villa’s players and bench were enraged when Moss, and VAR official Andy Madley, allowed City midfielder Rodri’s part in Bernardo Silva’s 80th-minute goal which would ultimately play a major part in their side’s 2-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.

Smith was sent off for comments made to Moss and the fourth official David Coote, after watching Rodri stroll back from a clear offside position to tackle Tyrone Mings and set up Silva, who rapidly dispatched the first goal of the night.

Rodri had taken advantage of a caveat in the laws whereby an attacking player is played onside at the point a defender intentionally plays the ball, but Smith took aim at the rules – and Moss – is his post-match press conference.

“I still don’t understand the rule if I’m honest,” he said. “I don’t think anybody can tell me why the goal’s been given; he’s taken advantage of an offside position.

“It’s 10 yards offside, he comes back and tackles Mings from behind. What’s Mings meant to do, let it go through or do we just stand 10 yards offside in the next few games now? I don’t understand.

PGMOL statement on Silva goal

“In the 79th minute of Manchester City vs. Aston Villa, Bernardo Silva scored for Manchester City. In the build-up to the goal, Rodri was initially standing in an offside position as the ball was played upfield.

“Tyrone Mings deliberately played the ball, controlling it on his chest. As soon as Mings deliberately played the ball the following Law applies:

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.

“As the Law deems that Rodri has not gained an advantage, he has not committed an offside offence and play should be allowed to continue. Rodri legitimately took possession of the ball from Mings, starting the attack which resulted in the goal.”

“I thought they’d at least go over to the screen because it looked a clear offside when I looked myself. When I realised they weren’t going and the VAR hadn’t mentioned anything, I just told the fourth official I thought they’d had juggling balls for Christmas.

“I got a yellow card [from Moss] for saying I think you’ve had juggling balls for Christmas. What I said for the red card doesn’t need to be censored, it wasn’t swearing. He came over and said I’m interpreting the laws of the game, and I said you should’ve done that earlier in the game.

“I think I got treated rather unfairly, I’ve seen a lot of worse things said to Jon Moss before and he’s not dealt like that with it. It just looks like he couldn’t wait to give me a yellow and then a red. I’m frustrated at myself, I got sucked into something I shouldn’t have.”

Guardiola: We’re playing like contenders


Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes his side are hitting their stride at the right time after beating Aston Villa 2-0 to claim their sixth league win in a row.

Pep Guardiola’s side have re-emerged from their run of just three wins from their opening eight league games to rack up six successive victories en route to moving top of the table, for two hours at least, until Manchester United’s win at Fulham later on Wednesday.

That run has left the manager delighted with his side’s return to form, as much through the manner of their victories as the points themselves – and a sign, he feels, that they can have genuine hope of snatching back their title crown.

He said: “The rise in the table is good, we are there; when we lost to Tottenham we were 12th in the table. But we have only lost two games this season, but the most important thing apart from the three points and six victories in a row is the fact that we are back, since Newcastle game, playing the way we have to play to be contenders.

“Everyone wants to win and wants to be champions, but you have to show the way you play to be champion. We have the right tempo, we don’t concede many and we create a lot. We have to be more clinical, especially in the six-yard box, but it’s really good.”

Analysis: The loophole which played Rodri onside

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Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says he was unhappy that Manchester City’s opening goal in their 2-0 win against his side was allowed to stand and that people are still left confused by the rules.

Sky Sports’ Ron Walker:

“There was no need for any VAR lines to work out whether Rodri was offside or not when the ball was played forward by Manchester City in the build-up to their opening goal. You could’ve driven a bus in the space between him and Tyrone Mings, the last Aston Villa defender.

“However, the laws of the game are not that simple. Mings’ controlling the ball on his chest gave the Spanish midfielder a loophole through which he was no longer deemed to be committing an offence, and could quite legitimately set up Bernardo Silva to fire home.

“One of the caveats of Law 11 in the Laws of the Game, covering the offside rule, states: ‘A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.’

“It makes sense why Dean Smith should feel a sense of injustice after watching Rodri gain such a clear advantage, and without Mings having eyes in the back of his head he would be totally reliant on his team-mates to let him know he was in danger of being dispossessed.

“But those are the rules – in black and white. Ignore them at your peril.”