Crestfallen, if not actually insulted, the look on Alex Lacazette’s face said it all.
During his post-match ‘flash’ interview, the Arsenal striker was informed the Gunners’ opening goal, in their thrilling fightback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at West Ham, had been debited to Hammers midfielder Tomas Soucek as an own goal.
“The first goal is not mine? That’s not nice,” groaned Lacazette. And most sane judges of football groaned with him.
VAR is by no means the only intruder spoiling our enjoyment of elite football. In the Premier League’s ivory towers, there are faceless (and unaccountable) people making decisions which cost players hard-earned goal bonuses.
And Lacazette is just the latest stooge to fall foul of their rush to judgement.
To the naked eye, Arsenal’s first goal at the Taxpayers Stadium was a clean ‘kill’ – a decent cross from Calum Chambers, a slick turn and rasping finish from Lacazette, all nicely done.
One TV replay showed Lacazette’s shot took a nick off Soucek’s boot, in the same way that a batsman might edge an outswinger to the wicketkeeper in a Test match, and the Arsenal forward’s shot might have gone wide without the West Ham player’s inadvertent contribution.
But to take the goal away from Lacazette smacks of jobsworths interfering with a striker’s best endeavours.
And like too many aspects of football in the technological age, the inconsistency drives you mad.
If the last touch – or decisive touch – is paramount in calculating who is credited with scoring, a stray beach ball on the pitch should have been awarded Darren Bent’s famous winner for Sunderland against Liverpool in 2009. Nope, it was Bent’s goal.
Or at England’s World Cup semi-final heartbreak in 1990, should Paul Parker have been debited with an own goal for the freak deflection which flummoxed Three Lions keeper Peter Shilton? Nope, Andreas Brehme, the West German defender who struck the free-kick, took the plaudits.
Anyone going to take Jack Grealish’s goal off him from Aston Villa’s 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool – you know, the one that was going miles wide until it hit Fabinho? Don’t even think about it.
And who’s going to tell Aaron Ramsey to hand the match ball from the first hat-trick of his career, for Arsenal against Everton in 2018, because one of his goals took a telling deflection past Jordan Pickford?
The Premier League accredited goals panel has its place in football, mainly to sort out fatuous and fraudulent claims from deserving goalscorers, but I have been sceptical at best about its even-handedness since the opening day of the 2006-07 season.
On his Everton debut, Andy Johnson was credited with the Toffees’ opening goal in the 2-1 win against newly-promoted Watford at Goodison Park – even though his shot would probably have threatened the corner flag more than the top corner without a ricochet off Lloyd Doyley on its way in.
No problem with that – Doyley would not have wanted the ignominy of a completely blameless own goal on his slate, and good luck to Johnson if he enjoyed his goal bonus.
But in the same game, Watford’s late reply from Damien Francis – goalbound in one corner until Alan Stubbs’ outstretched leg diverted it into the other – went down as an own goal.
Two snapshots, from the same game, with completely different sets of rules applied. And 15 years later, the nonsense is still going on.
Who are these people on the dubious goals panel, or whatever it’s called? Why do they reach their decisions with such indecent haste?
And are they going to have a whip-round for Lacazette to restore the goal bonus they took away from him?