With the Premier League having 2 games in the matter of a few days Manchester City, the champions could well be aggrieved about some of the decisions that have not gone their way. VAR has struck again and whilst the technology is getting decisions correct, there does seem to be fine margins and a lack of consistency.
This past weekend City made heavy weather at home once again to Crystal Palace. Palace had infamously beaten them 3-2 last season at the Etihad and with a little under 20 minutes to play on Saturday Palace were again winning this time it was 1-0 and whilst City dominated the game it looked as if they were going to have one of their frustrating days in front of the goal. And then there was a penalty….
The referee Graham Scott had no problem pointing to the spot and City looked saved. The incident occurred when Jairo Riedelwald in defence for Palace had handled the ball. Now this wasn’t an intentional hand ball and the ball had ricocheted from his own body- in other words there was nothing he could do. Common sense would have said no penalty. The referee who obviously saw it in real time said penalty. But when the decision went to VAR it was overturned and the decision was no penalty.
However rarely has VAR used common sense to when looking at decisions. It has gone straight for the rule book. So if players knee is offside then VAR would go along with that, the same with handballs. There have been many examples of players handling the ball and goals being disallowed. West Ham’s last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. The ball came off of Declan Rice the Hammers player, he never meant it and there was no malice, but VAR ruled no goal, he had handled the ball.
And so when VAR did make the right decision in the City-Palace game it felt off. Where did the rule book go? All of a sudden City’s hopes were resting in what some one thought about said incident, and they thought no penalty. Another referee in the room could well have said penalty. So we come down now to a massive lack of consistency for all involved. City to their credit didn’t let the decision affect them and did score 2 goals through Sergio Aguero, but Palace scored again to add a sting to the tail as the match finished 2-2 and City slipped further behind league leaders Liverpool.
But the controversy did not stop there for Pep Guardiola’s team. In midweek City had to play Sheffield United. Again a must win game even if the title looks doomed for them. This time City were awarded a penalty, and no one was about to change their decision. The problem was in the actual penalty itself. Dean Henderson the Sheffield United goalkeeper was clearly off his line when Gabriel Jesus struck the ball and this looks like the only reason he saved it.
At the end of the day City won the game 1-0, had it finished 0-0 this story could well have exploded costing City another two points. The rules clearly state that the penalty would have to have been retaken. There was no intervention from VAR and the keeper was a long way off his line and prepared.
The problem is not really with VAR itself but the people who are using the technology. They are making the same old tired mistakes that officials were making without VAR, there is simply a total lack of consistency. It’s caught even the champions out and the worry is that it could play a vital role in the pressurised environment of the relegation battle.
Another batch of Premier League games, some great ones, good goals, incidents but five months into the new season and VAR is still the talking point. That’s fine as an after thought, but it is the main talking point, and surely no one who is in love with the game wants that?
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