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Man City fire blank as VAR controversy dominates Copenhagen stalemate

Manchester City rested Erling Haaland, failed to score and were forced to send off Sergio Gomez in a frustrating VAR-dominated goalless draw with FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Rodri was also disallowed a goal and Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty after referee Artur Dias repeatedly visited the pitchside monitor in a noisy Parken stadium.

The stalemate guaranteed City a place in the last 16 of the Champions League for another year – but it wasn’t a night to be remembered for long.

All the important talking points came in the first half and it was remarkable that the Group G clash remained goalless.

With the prolific Haaland on the bench for the first time this season, City weren’t at their best and Copenhagen tested them much more than they did in the 5-0 win at Manchester last week.

Goalkeeper Ederson had a heart-to-mouth moment after just four minutes when he misinterpreted a back pass to concede a corner. For a split second he seemed to think the ball was headed for his own goal.

City thought they had taken the lead when Rodri fired a crisp shot into the top corner from outside the box after 11 minutes.

But what was to become a common theme, the Portuguese referee was invited to take a second look. To City’s dismay, he ruled out the handball hit against Mahrez in advance.

However, Mahrez appeared to be the beneficiary of VAR’s intervention shortly thereafter as Artur City awarded a penalty after further review.

Artur concluded that Nicolai Boilesen had put Manuel Akanji’s header on target, but Mahrez was unable to take advantage when Kamil Grabara saved his free-kick.

More drama ensued at the other end as Gomez tangled with Hakon Haraldsson on the edge of the box. Artur initially allowed the game to continue but after studying the replays decided to send City’s left-back off.

Replays suggested Copenhagen might even have been in the running for a penalty, but they had to settle for a free-kick on the edge of the box that came to nothing.

City manager Pep Guardiola, forced to play with 10 men for an hour, decided to sacrifice Mahrez to send an extra defender in Ruben Dias. The visitors were unusually lacking in cohesion and Haraldsson shot just wide, spurred on by a raucous home crowd.

City started the second half stronger as Kevin De Bruyne forced Grabara to make a good save, but Copenhagen continued to frustrate them.

The hosts had good possession and Isak Johannesson was about to turn a dangerous low pass across the box.

The game was flat and lacking in shots on target until Joao Cancelo tested Grabara from long range.

Phil Foden’s introduction failed to spark City and the game ebbed away.

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