VAR: Showing its teeth on opening weekend

Last Updated: 10/08/19 8:33pm

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Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Bryan Swanson reflects on the first use of VAR in the Premier League this season

Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Bryan Swanson reflects on the first use of VAR in the Premier League this season

New season. New drama. Video assistant referees have made their mark.

After an anonymous debut at Anfield on Friday night, the opening Saturday of the new season led to two overturned decisions – both affecting the Premier League champions.

VAR sprung to life at the London Stadium as Manchester City hit West Ham for five. There were two swift checks in the first half before moments of high drama after the break.

Gabriel Jesus thought he had scored and ran off to celebrate.

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Highlights from Manchester City’s 5-0 win at West Ham in the Premier League.

Highlights from Manchester City’s 5-0 win at West Ham in the Premier League.

But, after the first VAR Review in the Premier League, Raheem Sterling was found to be marginally offside. It was very tight. The goal was overturned.

In this instance, VAR can be compared to goal-line technology and its Goal Decision System (GDS). Even if the whole ball is one millimetre over the line, it’s a goal. VAR cannot choose how far a player is offside.

Therefore, the fact Sterling was just offside meant VAR officials will maintain it was an accurate correction.

Players from both sides gather around referee Mike Dean after Manchester City's third goal is disallowed by VAR

Players from both sides gather around referee Mike Dean after Manchester City’s third goal is disallowed by VAR

Sterling later joked on social media: “bro why is this VAR ting so mad at meee” followed by laughing emojis.

Twenty minutes later, Mike Dean, the on-field referee, and his assistants hadn’t noticed Declan Rice’s encroachment in the box before Sergio Ageuro’s penalty was saved. They had missed a ‘clear and obvious’ mistake.

VAR David Coote was called to make his second review and the information was relayed to fans. But supporters were confused when the big screen initially showed ‘Checking Goal’.

There hadn’t been one. It was promptly changed to ‘Checking Penalty’ before ‘Decision Penalty’. Dean ordered a retake, which Aguero scored.

The VAR screen is pictured in the tunnel area at Anfield prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City

The VAR screen is pictured in the tunnel area at Anfield prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City

The fact Lukasz Fabianski had both feet off his line as Aguero took the first spot-kick was deemed irrelevant. The Premier League has asked its officials not to use VAR unless both feet are significantly off the line.

Had Rice not encroached, and Manchester City not been in cruise control, Fabianski’s positioning could have triggered a more passionate debate.

VAR Stuart Attwell automatically checked John McGinn’s goal for Aston Villa and Tottenham’s goals from Tanguy Ndombele and Harry Kane, live on Sky Sports.

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Premier League interim CEO Richard Masters says they are ‘ready to go’ with VAR for the new season

Premier League interim CEO Richard Masters says they are ‘ready to go’ with VAR for the new season

Attwell checked for a possible Villa penalty early in the second half. But on-field referee Chris Kavanagh was not advised to correct any obvious error.

Kavanagh also sought advice from Attwell over McGinn’s challenge on Tottenham’s Kyle Walker-Peters. Was it a sending-off offence? Within sixty seconds: ‘Decision No Red Card’.

With less than ten minutes to go, Toby Alderweireld appealed for a penalty after the ball hit Jonathan Kodjia’s arm. It was checked by Attwell, in under thirty seconds, who decided there had been no clear and obvious error from Kavanagh. Kodjia wasn’t penalised because the ball was kicked from close range.

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Mike Riley, manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, is confident the introduction of VAR in football will be a success.

Mike Riley, manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, is confident the introduction of VAR in football will be a success.

There were no goals, one red card and eight incidents checked by VAR John Brooks at Selhurst Park. Morgan Schneiderlin’s sending off for Everton, after a second yellow card, was not checked in line with protocol.

There was a red card check on Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic after a challenge on Everton’s Bernard late in the first half.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said afterwards: “I didn’t know what they were checking. I had no idea what had been seen. It was obvious with Schneiderlin… I didn’t see Luka’s at all.”

In other games, there was a red card check after a challenge from Southampton’s Che Adams on Burnley’s Ben Mee. The PA announced the check, which prompted some disquiet from fans. But, in under a minute, ‘Decision No Red Card’ was shown on the big screen.

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Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher take a look at how VAR will be used in the Premier League for the first time this season.

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher take a look at how VAR will be used in the Premier League for the first time this season.

VAR Peter Bankes appeared to agree with on-field referee Graham Scott’s interpretation of the incident. Nothing ‘clear and obvious’ had been missed, which was questioned by TV pundits. VAR won’t stop debates. It was one of six checks in that game.

At the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth’s Adam Smith was booked in the first half for a challenge on Sheffield United’s Jack O’Connell. VAR Lee Mason checked whether it should have been an automatic red card. It wasn’t, and the check took under thirty seconds.

Man Utd vs Chelsea

August 11, 2019, 4:00pm

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There were six checks in total, including a potential penalty and red card. In each case, on-field referee Kevin Friend needed no guidance on whether to overturn his initial decisions.

At Vicarage Road, VAR checked Brighton’s three goals against Watford, in line with protocol. On-field referee Craig Pawson wasn’t required to change his decision after a penalty check by VAR Andy Madley in the second half. There were six checks in the match.

There have been 49 checks in the opening seven games from VAR headquarters at Stockley Park, which has included all goals.

VAR never promised to deliver 100% accuracy. It never intended to re-referee a match. It hasn’t stopped debates about decisions. Even with the tightest of calls, it has already been used with ruthless efficiency. Now, onto Super Sunday.

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