Aston Villa manager Dean Smith fumed at a "farcical" and "pathetic" VAR decision that cost his side in a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Villa looked as though they might hold out for a draw at the Etihad despite most of their team playing their first match in nearly three weeks after a Covid-19 outbreak at the club.

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However, City eventually broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when Bernardo Silva struck.

There was controversy about the goal as Rodri won the ball back to start the move, having clearly been in an offside position when he challenged Villa defender Tyrone Mings from the initial pass.

Smith was sent off for protesting the decision and Villa went on to concede a second as Ilkay Gundogan scored a penalty.

“It was a farcical decision,” lamented Smith to the BBC. “I've not seen a goal like that given. It needs to be looked at. I don't think anyone in this stadium thought it was a goal.

"I thought they would go over to the VAR screen. I saw the incident and saw it was kicking off, so I asked the fourth officials did they get juggling balls for Christmas.”

He added to BT Sport: “Are we just going to leave players behind the line then? It's farcical. He was 10 yards offside and come back and tackled our player, it's a pathetic law and a pathetic decision.”

However, the Premier League moved to defend the rule in a statement.

"In the 79th minute of Manchester City vs. Aston Villa, Bernardo Silva scored for Manchester City. In the build-up to the goal, Rodri was initially standing in an offside position as the ball was played upfield," a PGMOL statement read.

"Tyrone Mings deliberately played the ball, controlling it on his chest. As soon as Mings deliberately played the ball the following Law applies.

"'A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.'

"As the Law deems that Rodri has not gained an advantage, he has not committed an offside offence and play should be allowed to continue. Rodri legitimately took possession of the ball from Mings, starting the attack which resulted in the goal."

Smith was also unhappy about City’s goal as a penalty was awarded for handball after Gabriel Jesus’ header hit Matty Cash at close range.

“Matty Cash is a yard away for the handball, he can't jump without his arms up,” said Smith.

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“He didn't even look at it, it flabbergasts me. It was a poor performance from the officials and that's cost us."

Reflecting on his team’s performance, Smith added: “It was a heroic performance in terms of energy and commitment but we didn't show enough quality against a very good team.

"It's been tough but much tougher for other people across the country, so it's not too hard for my lads to do 10 days in isolation when some people have done it for nine months."

Asked for his view on the decisions, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said: “We didn't see it but there is VAR. It is here. I'm not going to analyse the game but in against a top team we have come up with a brilliant performance."

The win moved City top of the Premier League and extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches in all competitions.

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