The introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology to English football became shrouded in confusion after what Roy Hodgson felt was Brighton’s “suspicious” winning goal against Crystal Palace.
Brighton’s 2-1 FA Cup third-round defeat of their rivals represented the first time VAR was in use in a competitive fixture in England, and it created an air of uncertainty around Glenn Murray’s finish.
He scored with his knee in the 87th minute but, amid suggestions of handball, there was confusion among players, those present at The Amex Stadium and television viewers over whether VAR had had any influence on the decision.
According to Palace’s Hodgson and Brighton manager Chris Hughton, match referee Andre Marriner had been in contact with fellow official Neil Swarbrick, working with VAR from a west London studio, about the goal.
That Marriner did not indicate as such or use the pitch-side VAR monitors contributed to the confusion, and Hodgson said: “We had suspicions. The people close to it seemed to be incensed, and from our angle it looks as if he’s guided the ball in with his arm.
“You’ve got to congratulate the system: when you watch it lots of times like they’ve been able to do, from different angles, it would have been very harsh (to disallow it).
“It was a genuine goal, and the referee was helped by the fact he had Swarbrick in the VAR studio (in west London) making a judgement that’d help him out, so I have no complaints.
“There was a brief pause and I was of the impression Swarbrick and Marriner were talking. I had a few spiteful comments to the referee on the way in, but that’s just my nature, I’m afraid. I regret them now.”
Hughton’s Brighton secured victory despite him making eight changes from the team that last week drew 2-2 with Bournemouth in the Premier League.
Of the goal, he said: “I am under the impression that VAR was used.
“That’s what I am led to believe: that it was used and there was not a decision to be made. At the time I wasn’t aware some thought it was handball.
“When they get the equaliser, which is a wonder goal, and you miss a couple of good chances, you start to think it’s not going to be your day.”
Victory means his team travel to Championship side Middlesbrough in the competition’s fourth round, between January 26 and 29.
Over that same weekend, Manchester United have been drawn to face League Two Yeovil Town, the lowest-ranked side yet to be eliminated, Tottenham will face Newport, and Manchester City meet Cardiff or Mansfield.