Video assistant referees (VAR) anticipated a rocky ride on their introduction to the Premier League, and so it has proved after a predictably eventful start to the season.
VAR intends to have ‘minimum interference – maximum benefit’ and two goals have been disallowed after around 70 checks in 10 games.
As a reminder, VAR is only to be used for ‘clear and obvious errors’ or ‘serious missed incidents’ in four match-changing situations: goals; penalty decisions; direct red-card incidents and mistaken identity.
After two overturned decisions at the London Stadium on Saturday, a disallowed goal and a retaken penalty, the third overturned decision in Premier League history took place at the King Power Stadium during Leicester’s goalless draw against Wolves.
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On-field referee Andre Marriner, who was the first VAR in the Premier League for Friday night’s game between Liverpool and Norwich, watched as Leander Dendoncker ran off to celebrate early in the second half.
Marriner hadn’t noticed anything, but all goals are checked. VAR Jonathan Moss, who was the on-field referee in Saturday’s draw between Crystal Palace and Everton, took a little over a minute and a half to cut short the celebrations.
Ninety-eight seconds after Dendoncker thought he had scored, Marriner picked up the ball and rolled it back for a Leicester free-kick. The goal had been disallowed. Wolves were stunned as Leicester fans cheered. VAR Moss established there had been accidental handball from Willy Boly. Accidental handball that leads to a goal must be ruled out, under strict new laws.
It was harsh but laws are laws, as set out by the game’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board. Video referees are simply applying the laws to assist their on-field colleagues.
Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo said afterwards: “I didn’t see the images, but I trust them (VAR). But creating these moments is not good for the atmosphere, it’s too long (the review).”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers laughed: “I’m really, really happy with VAR! The important thing is that it was the right decision.”
At Old Trafford, VAR Stuart Attwell assisted on-field referee Anthony Taylor as Manchester United beat Chelsea, live on Sky Sports.
Taylor awarded a penalty to United after Kurt Zouma’s clumsy challenge on Marcus Rashford early in the first half. The incident was automatically checked by Attwell, which took seconds, and Taylor’s decision was accurate. Rashford beat Kepa Arrizabalaga, with no involvement from the video officials.
Rashford had the ball in the net after 35 minutes, but he had clearly been in an offside position. VAR Attwell took less than 40 seconds to double-check that Paul Pogba had played the ball, and not Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic.
“Decision No Goal” was promptly communicated to fans via the stadium announcer, in a ground that doesn’t have a big screen. VAR wasn’t required to check Kovacic’s challenge on Pogba just beforehand, as it wasn’t an automatic red card incident.
Tammy Abraham was booked after a challenge on Scott McTominay. Attwell had another look. Supporters were told “Checking Red Card”, which led to a build-up of excitement from some fans. “Decision No Red” was communicated, which led to quick boos.
Further goals from Anthony Martial, Rashford and Daniel James were automatically checked as United ran rampant.
Arsenal beat Newcastle at St James’ Park, live on Sky Sports. On-field referee Martin Atkinson booked Miguel Almiron for simulation after 18 minutes.
VAR David Coote, who recommended two overturned decisions in Manchester City’s win against West Ham the previous day, checked the incident, without interrupting the flow of the game.
Atkinson had been right. There was no foul by Nacho Monreal or Granit Xhaka and no penalty should have been given. There was no check for a straight red card, as simulation is only punishable by a yellow card.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal just before an hour was automatically checked, in an otherwise unremarkable game for the video assistant referees.