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‘VAR has damaged Premier League’, says Pochettino after Chelsea drama

Mauricio Pochettino claimed VAR has damaged the Premier League after Chelsea had a late goal controversially disallowed in their dramatic 2-2 draw at Aston Villa…

Mauricio Pochettino claimed VAR has damaged the Premier League after Chelsea had a late goal controversially disallowed in their dramatic 2-2 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Pochettino’s side trailed to Marc Cucurella’s early own goal and a Morgan Rogers strike before half-time at Villa Park.

Rather than capitulate as they did in Tuesday’s humiliating 5-0 loss at Arsenal, the Blues dug deep to rescue a gritty point thanks to goals from Noni Madueke and Conor Gallagher.

But Chelsea thought they had won it deep into stoppage time when Villa keeper Robin Olsen turned Axel Disasi’s effort into his own net, however, to Pochettino’s fury, the goal was disallowed for a Benoit Badiashile foul.

“The referee is unbelievable and it’s ridiculous. It is difficult to accept,” Pochettino said.

“They didn’t see a foul on the pitch and then VAR changed the decision of the referee. For me, that was a normal challenge.

“It is painful as it has damaged English football. Villa’s players and their fans didn’t understand why the goal was disallowed.

“For me, it damaged a little bit the Premier League. If we want to be the best league in the world, it should be protecting the spectacle and the decision.”

The draw was a blow to Villa’s hopes of holding off Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.

Villa are seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who host Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday in the first of three games in hand on Unai Emery’s side.

Although Villa, who last finished as high as fourth in 1995-96, remain favourites to clinch the lucrative Champions League berth, they might feel a little nervous if Tottenham win the north London derby.

“We wanted to play Europa League last year and now we have a new challenge which is to play Champions League,” Emery said.

“Chelsea today showed the power. But to draw at the end is a very good result. I want more, of course.”

The under-fire Pochettino reportedly retains the backing of Chelsea’s ninth-placed squad – which has been assembled for over £1 billion – despite a difficult campaign that included an FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City last weekend.

They proved that point by refusing to surrender against a Villa team that flew at them in a vibrant start.

Chelsea refuse to surrender
In the fourth minute, Lucas Digne poked a low cross into the Chelsea six-yard box, where John McGinn’s scuffed shot was deflected into his own net by Cucurella.

But Villa’s momentum had stalled and they suffered a setback when Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans limped off injured.

Nicolas Jackson was inches away from equalising with a close-range header from Cucurella’s cross that glanced off the post.

The much-maligned Jackson should have buried that chance and Ollie Watkins almost made him pay with a powerful drive that Djordje Petrovic saved at his near post.

It was a warning Chelsea failed to heed as Rogers doubled Villa’s advantage in the 41st minute.

Matty Cash’s pass picked out Rogers and the 21-year-old, given too much time and space on the edge of the area, swept a perfectly-placed strike past Petrovic for his third goal since his January arrival from Middlesbrough.

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez was forced off with an injury at half-time and his replacement Olsen had to pick the ball out of the net in the 62nd minute.

Pau Torres carelessly lost possession, with Gallagher’s touch reaching Madueke, who slotted a fine finish past the Swedish keeper from 10 yards.

Madueke almost completed Chelsea’s fightback, but his flicked effort was parried by Olsen.

The winger wasn’t left to rue that miss as Gallagher rescued a deserved point for Chelsea in the 81st minute with a superb curler into the far corner from the edge of the area.

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