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Aussie VAR Gillett at heart of EPL uproar

Australian video assistant referee (VAR) Jarred Gillett has ended up as an unseen bogeyman for Arsenal fans after his controversial decisions played a key role in their side’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester City.

The first Premier League match of the year on Saturday turned into a suffocating affair for under-pressure referee Stuart Attwell, the principal target of the wrath of Gunners’ supporters at a seething Emirates Stadium.

Yet it was Gold Coast official Gillett, tucked some 20 miles away in a quiet office in the Premier League’s west London VAR hub, who was also at the heart of the New Year’s Day drama as he was accused of inconsistency in his video monitoring role.

The home side, who had produced one of their most impressive displays of the season, were left aggrieved by the performance of both Attwell and Gillett after they saw their 1-0 lead eventually overturned by Rodri’s last-gasp winner for City.

In the opening 10 minutes, Arsenal had claimed a penalty when City keeper Ederson went in foot-first and brought down Martin Odegaard inside the box – but Attwell didn’t want to know and Gillett, after a long check, agreed.

Gillett, though, did decide to intervene in the crucial second-half incident when Bernardo Silva went down theatrically in the box after a shirt tug by Granit Xhaka. Attwell simply waved away City’s claims.

Yet Gillett told Attwell to review the incident and Man City were awarded the spot kick that Riyad Mahrez then converted to get them back into a game which had appeared to be slipping away from the champions.

The Gunners then shot themselves in the foot when Brazilian defender Gabriel was sent off for two yellow card offences, the first one seemingly having been for trying to scuff the penalty spot with his boot before Mahrez took his kick.

Down to 10, Arsenal were left holding on before Rodri poked home in the dying seconds and celebrated bare-chested in front of the Arsenal fans, much to their fury as they hurled plastic bottles onto the pitch.

Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was quick to point the finger at Gillett afterwards, saying: “Both penalties, I don’t know why the ref is told to see one and not the other. It is there for a reason, go and use it. It is the inconsistency.

“The whole point is to help the game out. In real time, it didn’t look like one and slow it down on a screen and it is given.”

Arsenal assistant manager Albert Stuivenberg, standing in for Mikel Arteta who was absent after a positive COVID-19 test, added: “The moment with Odegaard, I think it is a clear penalty but at least a moment for the referee to check (on the monitor).

“It happened in the second half with their penalty which is not really consistent.”

The 35-year-old Gillett is in a breakthrough season, having become the first non-British or Irish referee to referee a Premier League game in September when he took charge of a 1-1 draw between Watford and Newcastle.

Yet he has also spent plenty of time on duty at the Premier League’s Stockley Park VAR hub which oversees the video replays at the top-flight matches.

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