Aston Villa manager Dean Smith launched a furious blast at the officials after Bernardo Silva’s controversial late goal inspired Manchester City’s 2-0 win on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side found it hard work to pierce Villa’s stubborn defence at the rain-lashed Etihad Stadium.
Silva finally made the breakthrough in the 79th minute with his first Premier League goal since July.
Smith was sent to the stands after a furious complaint that Rodri should have been given offside in the build-up to Silva’s goal.
Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty ensured City made it nine successive wins in all competitions as they extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches.
After the match, the Professional Game Match Officials organisation issued a statement explaining that, by the letter of the law, Rodri had not gained an advantage because Villa’s Tyrone Mings played the ball first.
That didn’t placate Smith, who raged: “It was a farcical decision. 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.
“Are we just going to leave players behind the line then? He was 10 yards offside and come back and tackled our player, it’s a pathetic law and a pathetic decision.”
During the protest that led to his dismissal, Smith revealed he was shown a yellow card by referee Jon Moss for bizarrely asking fourth official David Coote “if he got juggling balls for Christmas”.
“It wasn’t swear words. He (Moss) came over and said he was interpreting the laws of the game. I said, ‘Well you should have done that earlier in the game’,” Smith said.
“I think I got treated rather unfairly. I’ve heard a lot of worse things said to Jonathan Moss before and he’s not dealt with it like that. It looks like he couldn’t wait to give me a red.”
Guardiola inevitably didn’t see the incident the same way as Smith.
“I didn’t watch the image on TV. I know they complained on the touchline but VAR is there,” Guardiola said.
“I don’t know exactly the rule but if it was offside I am pretty sure the goal would have been disallowed.”
After a spluttering start, second-placed City are hitting their stride and sit two points behind leaders Manchester United.
United beat Fulham just hours after Guardiola’s men saw off Villa, but City have a game in hand.
Plagued by defensive problems last season, they have been rock solid this term, conceding only once in the 11 matches John Stones and Ruben Dias have played together at centre-back.
“We’ve lost just two games this season and the most important thing for me is the fact we are back to playing the way we have to play to be contenders,” Guardiola said.
“Everyone wants to win and be champions but you have to show, in the way you play, that you deserve to be champions.”
The only worry for Guardiola was potential injuries suffered by Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker.
Guardiola described De Bruyne’s problem as “something muscular” without saying out long he would be out and said Walker’s was “just a kick”.
A significant coronavirus outbreak at Villa meant their first team had not played since they lost to Manchester United on New Year’s Day, with the club fielding a youth side for their FA Cup defeat against Liverpool.
Villa had only three days of training before facing City and put up a brave fight before fading at the end.
City grabbed their controversial opener when Rodri, coming back from an offside position, nicked the ball off Mings and found Silva on the edge of the Villa area.
Portugal playmaker Silva twisted into space before curling a fine finish into the top corner.
In stoppage-time, Jesus had a header blocked by Cash’s hand and Gundogan stepped up to convert the spot-kick.