Nigeria-eligible star’s first Serie A goal generates controversy

Title hopefuls AC Milan were surprisingly held to a score draw by struggling Udinese on Friday evening with a player of Nigerian descent at the centre of the ensuing argument

Udinese left-back Destiny Udogie came off the bench to score his first professional goal and earn Udinese a fine 1-1 draw versus AC Milan in an Italian Serie A game week 27 clash at the San Siro on Friday.

Portuguese forward Rafael Leão handed Milan a first-half lead, but Udogie equalised for the visitors ten minutes after replacing Zeegelaar.

The Italian-Nigerian teenager popped up in the box in the 66th minute to bundle the ball over the line from close range after Roberto Pereyra’s effort created danger for the home side.

But the ball appeared to have struck Udogie on the arm before trickling over the line, but despite VAR’s silent check, the goal was not disallowed.

And the error got Milan manager Stefan Pioli fuming after the encounter, with the Italian tactician wondering how VAR could have missed such an important detail.

“There is no doubt, on Udogie’s goal, it is evident handball,” Pioli told DAZN, as per Tutto Udinese.

“The Udinese player scores by hand. That the VAR has not seen it is difficult, it is a serious mistake that has decided the final result.

“That we did not have an exceptional performance is also true, but this was a goal to be canceled.”

Former Serie A referee Luca Marelli agrees with Pioli that Udogie touched the ball with his hand while wondering why VAR did not intervene.

“There will be a lot of discussions,” Marelli opined.

“We have seen it several times and we see that there is a very suspicious movement of Udogie touching the ball with his left arm. The clear feeling is that he was deflected into the goal with his left arm: he is very wide and goes towards the ball.

“The feeling is that the decisive touch is with the left arm. I struggle to understand why the VAR did not intervene.”

Even Udogie admitted that he ‘wasn’t sure’ whether he handled the equaliser against Milan.

“I honestly wasn’t sure if I got it with my arm. I looked over at the linesman and he gave it, so it went well,” the versatile wing-back told DAZN, as per Football Italia.

But Udinese coach Gabriele Cioffi confesses he has not watched the replays on screen yet.

But the tactician insists it was a good goal scored by Udogie and the experts at VAR would have chalked it off if they believed otherwise.

“It hit him (Udogie),” Cioffi said.

“The important thing is that it hit him and entered. I haven’t seen it; I have to be honest. From the images, it seems to me that Romagnoli has touched the ball more.

“Even if he (Udogie) touched it with his hand, we have 4-5 people at the VAR watching. We have always elegantly accepted arbitration decisions. However, I don’t think there is compensation. The boy told me that it first hit his thigh and then his stomach.”

Udogie only made his Serie A debut in 2020 in the colours of Hellas Verona, and it has taken the 19-year-old defender 28 league matches to bag his first top-flight goal.

And despite the controversy that has followed, the Italian youth international is still pleased to open his account at one of Europe’s most hallowed grounds.

“I am very happy to have scored my first professional goal at San Siro, in an important stadium against a great team,” Udogie told Udinese TV.

“It was a very strong emotion. We wanted to play well today; it was a complicated game. In the second half, we played well, and it went well. It is a point that gives us courage.”

Udogie, born in Italy to Nigerian parents, now has one goal and one assist for Udinese this term.

Nigeria international forward Isaac Success also featured for the final 24 minutes of the clash against AC Milan.

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