September 27, 2021, 16:24

Top 10 VAR controversies: From Moscow to Wembley

Top 10 VAR controversies: From Moscow to Wembley

The drama in Paris on Wednesday evening is not the first time there has been controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Manchester United stunned Paris Saint-Germain by becoming the first team in Champions League history to progress to the next round having lost by two or more goals at home in the first leg of a knockout match.

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However, the visitors were reliant on a late penalty from Marcus Rashford, awarded for handball by Presnel Kimpembe after the intervention of the VAR, to progress to the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition.

The Ligue 1 champions were furious with the award of the spot kick, with their injured forward Neymar calling it a “disgrace”, but it is just the latest in a long line of controversies involving the VAR…

1) ‘In a World Cup final, you don’t give such a penalty’

The 2018 World Cup final was delicately balanced at 1-1 approaching half-time when the VAR took centre stage in Moscow.

A corner from the right was flicked on by Blaise Matuidi and the ball struck Ivan Perisic’s hand, although the midfielder seemed to know little about it.

Initially, referee Nestor Pitana signalled for just a corner, but a VAR review was initiated and after watching numerous replays, the Argentine overturned his original decision and awarded the penalty after consulting pitch-side replays, which Antoine Griezmann converted.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, however, disagreed with the decision, saying: “I never comment on refereeing, but let me say one sentence: in a World Cup final, you do not give such a penalty.”

2) Paris Match

United somehow got the better of PSG on away goals in the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday night, but only after they were awarded a controversial injury-time penalty in the second leg at the Parc des Princes.

The decision came after PSG defender Kimpembe was penalised for handball in the final minute as referee Damir Skomina ruled he had blocked Diogo Dalot’s shot with his arm after watching replays.

However, the spot kick would never be given in the Premier League, even when VAR comes to England, according to Dermot Gallagher.

3) VAR’s international debut

Our first look at the VAR in the international arena came during the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, although it did not go smoothly.

There were numerous hiccups during the tournament, culminating in referee Milorad Mazic failing to upgrade the yellow card given to Chile’s Gonzalo Jara to a red for what seemed a clear elbow on Germany striker Timo Werner.

After complaints from Germany, the official did finally consult the technology. But despite the evidence, he opted not to send Jara off.

“Other sports must be looking at it and thinking what a joke football is,” former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon told ITV at the time.

“Everyone up in the box who thinks that is a yellow card should be locked up, put in a van and driven away somewhere.”

4) Tunisia get shirty with Kane

England’s opening group-stage victory over Tunisia in the 2018 World Cup was marred by more VAR controversy after the failure to award Gareth Southgate’s side two penalties.

England were convinced they should have been given spot kicks after what appeared to be clear-cut fouls by Ferjani Sassi and Yassine Meriah on Harry Kane, who was bundled to the floor on both occasions.

The man who mattered most, though, disagreed, although FIFA did subsequently analyse exactly why the VAR Sandro Ricci had not told referee Wilmar Roldan to look at the incidents on the touchline monitor.

5) Spot-on decision at the home of football

Spurs’ Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg tie with Chelsea was decided by the VAR, but again, the key decision in the tie was much talked about after the game.

Kane was the hosts’ match-winner from the penalty spot at Wembley in January, but it was the award of the spot kick that was so hotly debated in the first place.

Kane was deemed to be onside by the video assistant, overturning the decision by the assistant referee on the touchline, before being upended by Chelsea ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Meanwhile, Chelsea had a different view of the incident, with the Blues subsequently bringing out their own angle which appeared to show the Spurs striker was actually offside.

6) ‘Incompetency of the highest order’

Manchester City’s 3-2 first-leg win over Schalke in their Champions League last-16 clash in February 2019 was dominated by the VAR once again.

On this occasion, the controversy centred around how long it took referee Carlos del Cerro Grande to award the Bundesliga side the first of their two first-half penalties for a handball against Nicolas Otamendi.

The official did not review the incident himself at the side of the pitch apparently because of a technical issue, while there were also no replays on the big screens or any other indication of what was happening to those in the Veltins Arena.

However, after a three-minute delay accompanied by boos, Grande did eventually award Schalke a spot kick, from which Nabil Bentaleb levelled matters on the night.

Debate raged afterwards, though, with former Southampton forward and Sky Sports pundit Matt Le Tissier writing on Twitter: “Not a lot of point having VAR if refs need to take three mins to know if it’s a handball or not! Incompetency of the highest order.”

7) VAR’s English bow

VAR made its English football debut in a highly eventful FA Cup fourth-round clash between Liverpool and West Brom at Anfield in January 2018.

And referee Craig Pawson was a busy man, first chalking off Craig Dawson’s header for offside, then awarding the hosts a penalty for a pull on Mo Salah, before ruling out a Baggies ‘goal’ for a foul.

8) England pay the penalty

England had appeared on course for a 1-0 win over Italy in March 2018, that is until the late intervention of the VAR at Wembley.

Referee Deniz Aytekin decided that defender James Tarkowski had caught Italy forward Federico Chiesa in the box, with Lorenzo Insigne converting the resulting penalty.

However, England manager Gareth Southgate did not believe that a clear and obvious error had been made in the first place, complaining: “I think in this instance my only observation would be that I don’t think it is clear and obvious.”

9) An ’embarrassing’ FA Cup episode at Wembley

It was in the 2017-18 FA Cup that the VAR was first introduced, but its debut was once more dominated by several controversial calls, none more so than during a fifth-round replay between Tottenham and Rochdale at Wembley.

On that occasion, referee Paul Tierney first disallowed Erik Lamela’s early strike after spotting a foul in the build-up, albeit after a lengthy delay, before the official then consulted the technology to award the home team a penalty.

At first, Tierney awarded a free kick to Spurs for a foul on Kieran Trippier, only to then change his mind after another intervention from the VAR.

However, despite Heung-Min Son converting the spot kick to double Spurs’ lead, his ‘goal’ was actually ruled out after his stuttering run-up was deemed illegal.

After Mauricio Pochettino’s side had won the tie 6-1, though, the Argentine was scathing, calling the VAR confusion “embarrassing”.

10) When is a red not a red?

As previously mentioned, the VAR endured a rocky international bow in the 2017 Confederations Cup, and none more so than during a Group B match between Germany and Cameroon.

Now, after Ernest Mabouka caught Emre Can with a high tackle, referee Wimar Roldan initially booked the wrong player Sebastian Siani.

However, the Colombian looked at the challenge on the touchline TV monitor, only to compound his initial mistake by then sending Siani off.

Cameroon complained and after Roldan reviewed the incident for a second time, he finally got to the right decision and dismissed Mabouka.


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