Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has escaped sanction for controversially grabbing a female assistant referee in his side’s 1-0 win over Arsenal.
Aguero faced criticism after he complained to Sian Massey-Ellis about a decision during the match by putting his arm around her neck and pulling her back, before she shrugged him off, and walked away.
Massey-Ellis showed all 10 years of her experience in handling the incident calmly, but it did not go unnoticed by football media and fans.
“You’ve got to respect the officials. I think she deals with the situation really well. He’ll know better than that,” pundit Micah Richards said of the Aguero incident.
“He knows not to be touching the officials, it doesn’t look good.
“It’s just not a good look.”
Former Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor described Aguero’s actions as “shocking”.
“I don’t think there was any need for it. Yes he might have been upset that he didn’t get the throw-in, but there’s no need to put your hand on her there,” Agbonlahor said.
“He can easily tell her what he thought of the decision, but putting your hand on her there is quite shocking.
“It just gives a bad example to kids out there playing football on a Sunday, it’s just something we shouldn’t be seeing in the Premier League.
“When I used to play for Villa you’d sometimes be be angry at decisions but you wouldn’t go and put your hand on the ref. Sometimes some players did and the referees would have a right good go at you.
“You just don’t put your hands on referees or assistant referees. I’m sure if that was in the middle of the park and it was the referee they could easily have sent the player off.”
Football legend turned commentator Alan Shearer said on BBC that “it just wasn’t a good look” and fellow former football star Ian Wright described Aguero’s actions as “unnecessarily patronising” and “awkward”.
On social media, there were plenty of vocal critics of Aguero too.
Players are eligible to be cautioned for making physical contact with a referee, even if it is non-aggressive, and if it is deemed aggressive or confrontational they can be shown a red card.
Nothing was pulled up during the match, and retrospectively charges can only be placed if the touching is deemed aggressive or confrontational, which the referee’s governing body did not conclude.
After the match City coach Pep Guardiola scoffed at the controversy around Aguero’s actions.
“Come on guys,” Guardiola said.
“Sergio is the nicest person I ever met in my life. Look for problems in other situations not in this one.”
The team’s all-time record scorer played 65 minutes in his first match since June. The Argentina striker didn’t have a clear-cut chance in his first game back in the team as City eked out a hard-fought win over Arsenal, thanks to Raheem Sterling’s first-half goal.
Sterling slotted a rebound into an empty net in the 23rd minute after City midfielder Phil Foden had a shot parried away by Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno at Etihad Stadium.
City had goalkeeper Ederson Moraes to thank for preserving its lead, with the Brazil international producing great saves from Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late in the first half.
It was City’s second win in four games in the Premier League, having started a week after most of the other teams because of its involvement in the latter stages of the Champions League last season.