It took just 41 minutes for the restarted Premier League to create another big controversy over technology.

This time, it wasn’t a VAR decision that was the talking point. Instead, the typically reliable goal-line technology was at fault during the first game after a 100-day shutdown because of the coronavirus.

Hawk-Eye was forced to “unreservedly apologize” after failing to see Aston Villa goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland carry the ball over his own goal-line after catching an inswinging Sheffield United free kick.

The technology company acknowledged that ball had crossed the line and blamed the error on its seven cameras located in the stands being “significantly occluded” by players and the goal post.

“This level of occlusion has never been seen before in over 9,000 matches that the Hawk-Eye Goal Line Technology system has been in operation,” Hawk-Eye said in a statement.

The match finished 0-0, depriving Champions League-chasing Sheffield United of two points that could yet prove decisive in its attempt to qualify for the lucrative European competition.


“I think the goalkeeper was in the Holte End when he caught it, or dragged it back,” Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said, referring to the giant stand at Villa Park. “My issue is obviously one of frustration. Seven cameras haven’t picked it up — the most technical league in the world — everything we see at every angle and it hasn’t seen a goal. That is disappointing from our point of view.”

After the backpedaling Nyland was bundled into the side-netting of the goal by a teammate and tried to act like he hadn’t taken the ball over the line, Sheffield United’s players celebrated what would have been the first goal after the resumption of the league.

However, referee Michael Oliver didn’t award it. He pointed to his watch, suggesting it hadn’t vibrated to signal that a goal had been awarded by Hawk-Eye.

VAR was not called upon to intervene, either.

“Under the IFAB protocol, the VAR is able to check goal situations,” said a statement by Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the referees body. “However, due to the fact that the on-field match officials did not receive a signal, and the unique nature of that, the VAR did not intervene.”

Hawk-Eye insisted the technology was tested and “functional” throughout the game, in accordance with the laws of the game.


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