Home Sports Lukaku double helps United knock out Huddersfield as Man United overcome VAR controversy

Lukaku double helps United knock out Huddersfield as Man United overcome VAR controversy

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Romelu Lukaku double helps United knock out Huddersfield as Man United overcome VAR controversy

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Manchester United beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 to advance into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday despite fresh controversy surrounding the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.
United suffered a setback before kick-off at Huddersfield when France midfielder Paul Pogba withdrew on the day of the game due to illness.

United manager Jose Mourinho also saw his team have a “goal” ruled out by VAR in the first game his club had played under the experimental system.But Mourinho’s men opened the scoring as early as the third minute, an ideal start as they looked to exorcise the memories of their Premier League defeat at the same ground in October.
It was a goal as simple as it was effective as Lukaku received a pass from Nemanja Matic and laid it off, quickly, to Juan Mata

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The Spanish midfielder was equally perceptive in playing through a return pass for Lukaku who chased it into the area, switched feet to put his marker Christopher Schindler out of the game, and curled a perfect finish into the far corner of the Huddersfield goal.Lukaku’s second goal, in the 55th minute, was similar but, if anything, even more impressive as the Belgian picked up the ball deep in his own half and set off upfield, outpacing his markers.After a pass to Alexis Sanchez, and a stunning return ball from the United ‘newboy’, Lukaku continued to outpace the entire Town defence before converting his 21st goal of the season from just inside the area.

The Belgian international, a £90 million summer signing from Everton, now boasts 21 goals from 38 appearances in all competitions, and he was the difference at the John Smith’s Stadium for United, who were without Paul Pogba, ruled out because of illness early on Saturday.

After a week of controversy concerning Pogba’s future at Old Trafford, the goals were a perfect antidote to the speculation — or “lies” as Mourinho had labelled it.Pogba had failed to travel for the tie, reporting sick on the morning of the game and leading United to take the highly unusual step of making an official announcement that he would be unavailable due to illness.

But, with that issue put to bed for the time being, it quickly became apparent that Lukaku’s early goal was to be an important one as David Wagner’s Huddersfield team responded impressively.In fact, within moments, they should have been level as Phil Billing found Tom Ince behind the United back-line and the midfielder sent a low-cross shot inches beyond the far post.

It was against the run of play, therefore, that United thought they had scored a second goal in the final minute of the first half after Ashley Young sped down the right and crossed for Mata.He skillfully gathered the ball and rounded keeper Jonas Lossl before tapping into the open goal, only to see referee Kevin Friend seek clarification from VAR official Neil Swarbrick.After a lengthy delay, during which rival managers Mourinho and Wagner chatted amiably, the VAR ruled that Mata was “leaning offside” and disallowed the “goal”.

Huddersfield looked intent on making the most of their reprieve and, early after the restart, an Ince free-kick deflected off the wall and sat up invitingly for Rajiv van La Parra, who miscued his attempted volley on the six-yard line.The impressive Chris Smalling was also soon called into action, blocking well as Terence Kongolo’s shot threatened United’s goal.

 VAR controversy

It is important to stress that the video assistant referee (VAR) system is currently in a trial period in English football, so teething problems should be expected. Yet when it has been deployed in recent weeks, it has only seemed to bring more confusion to matters, rather than clarity.

In this game, Juan Mata’s “goal” for United on the stroke of half-time was eventually disallowed by referee Kevin Friend for offside, but it was a tight decision and one that even freeze-framed television reviews failed to covince

VAR is only supposed to be called upon whenever the officials have made an obvious error, but neither Friend nor his assistant can be accused of that. Moreover, while Friend was talked through the incident by Neil Swarbrick, the John Smith’s Stadium waited — and waited — for resolution, due to the lack of replays inside the ground.

Friend eventually chalked off the goal, but replays continued to be inconclusive.

Billing then had a shot strike the United wall and an effort deflected wide from the rebound.
The second goal, understandably, damaged Huddersfield’s belief although Billing’s powerful shot forced United goalkeeper Sergio Romero into his first action for some time after 72 minutes and Steve Mounie just missed the target with an 89th-minute bicycle kick.

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