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PREMIER LEAGUE reality is beginning to bite hard for Sheffield United, who suffered a second successive defeat at Bramall Lane to Southampton.
The Saints’ £15 million summer signing Moussa Djenepo scored a wonderful solo goal to clinch the points on 66 minutes, but that wasn’t the full story.
VAR had intervened earlier to deny Oli McBurnie an opening strike for the Blades while Billy Sharp, who replaced the Scotland international, was sent off for a challenge on Oriol Romeu.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder had no issue with either decision, but he was stunned that VAR didn’t award a penalty for handball against James Ward-Prowse in the second half, and questioned the point of the meeting which was supposedly meant to encourage officials to overturn more key decisions from Stockley Park.
“Billy deserves to get sent off in my opinion, it was a poor challenge. No issue with that,” he said.
“But we should have had a penalty. If you look at the still [image], there are three of our boys around it waiting to tap it in. It was the first time we’ve been involved in the VAR debate and we feel it was wrong. Maybe someone will come out in four weeks’ time and say there’s been a mistake.
“You can’t get that wrong in my opinion. People will say it was subjective, but you expect with all the talk and debate it is an easy one to pick up. I don’t know why they had that meeting.”
It was a tentative start from both teams, but the game sprung into life in the 13th minute. First, Che Adams struck the post for Southampton before the hosts broke at pace; David McGoldrick was thwarted by Angus Gunn one-on-one.
While both sides were pushing, neither could really gain control in the first half. The visitors were looking threatening on the break, and again squandered a glaring opportunity to take the lead just before half-time.
Sofiane Boufal found himself in space inside the box after Chris Basham initially halted Adams in his tracks, but he couldn’t generate enough power to beat Dean Henderson.
The Blades thought they had taken the lead after the break through McBurnie, who tapped home Ollie Norwood’s free-kick cross. But John Egan had interfered with play from an offside position in the build-up, so VAR quickly ruled it out.
Good work from Boufal opened up space for Southampton on the counter once again. The Moroccan played in Romeu, who unleashed a strike that Henderson could only parry, but it was cleared eventually.
It didn’t take long for the Saints to take the lead and compound United’s misery. Djenepo showed superb strength and balance before slotting well past Henderson.
Wilder’s men upped the pressure in the last 15 minutes as they hunted an equaliser. After VAR rejected the penalty claim, McGoldrick was again denied by an excellent Gunn save.
With five minutes remaining, tensions towards referee Lee Mason from the home fans, which had been simmering throughout, reached boiling point. He showed substitute Sharp a red card, capping a miserable day for United.
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