COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Manchester City closed in on the Champions League last 16 after drawing 0-0 at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday, despite playing the majority of the match with 10 men.
VAR took centre stage in an action-packed first half in Copenhagen. City thought they had taken the lead 11 minutes in with a goal-of-the-season contender from Rodri, only for the strike to be ruled out for handball in the build-up.
The video assistant referee stepped in again moments later to help City win a penalty for another handball, but Riyad Mahrez saw his spot kick saved by home goalkeeper Kamil Grabara.
A busy VAR then asked the referee to have another look at a foul by Sergio Gomez on the edge of the penalty area on the half hour mark, with the on-field official choosing to show the City full back a red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity.
The 10 men more than held their own in the second half, but with Liverpool to come in the Premier League at the weekend and qualification for the knockout stage almost secured, City left top goalscorer Erling Haaland on the bench and saw out the draw.
Top of Group G with 10 points from four matches, City will be sure of a place in the last 16 if Sevilla lose or draw at Borussia Dortmund later on Tuesday, while Copenhagen are third on two points.
City players were furious that Mahrez was adjudged to have handled the ball before setting up Rodri for the Spaniard’s thunderbolt.
However, none of them appealed for the penalty that was awarded after the ball struck home defender Nicolai Boilesen on the arm from a City corner, with the referee having checked the pitchside monitor again.
Mahrez never looked comfortable and has now missed two of his last three spot kicks, while City have missed 24 penalties in all competitions under Pep Guardiola, nine more than any other Premier League side since the Spaniard took charge in 2016.
Gomez, who is yet to start a league game for City, then pulled back Hakon Arnar Haraldsson when through on goal. No foul was given initially, but VAR again took over to change the referee’s mind.
With Norwegian goalscoring phenomenon Haaland on the sidelines, having not started for City for the first time this season in all competitions, the visitors failed to finish off several good second-half chances.
Kevin De Bruyne twice drilled wide from good positions, while Joao Cancelo was denied by a smart save from Grabara.
With Copenhagen happy to take anything from a team who hammered them 5-0 in Manchester last week, the latter stages were played at a slower pace, with City’s job also done.
(Reporting by Peter HallEditing by Christian Radnedge)