3 controversial VAR moments from PL gameweek 10
Just like any other match week in the Premier League, Round 10 delivered wonderful enthralling football but not without its fair share of controversies.
Several high-profile errors made by the on-field referees last season had the fans and the pundits crying out for VAR to be introduced from this term onwards, but ever since its introduction in English football, the VAR system has sparked more controversies than anything else.
That’s not to say that there is a problem with the technology as the same system has been implemented to good effect in other elite European leagues such as the La Liga, Serie A and German Bundesliga for a number of seasons now.
Indeed, all the VAR controversies in the Premier League this season have been down to the ambiguous handling of technology by the officials. Prior to Round 10, hardly any on-field decision was overruled by the use of technology despite the replays pointing to clear and obvious errors committed by the referee.
Surprisingly enough, though, the bar that had been set so high when it came to overturning the on-field referee’s decision, was lowered drastically on Matchday 10, with the obvious change in the handling of technology inviting widespread criticism.
With that in mind, let us take a look back at 3 moments from Round 10 where VAR played a telling role.
1. Aaron Connolly penalty incident
Goals from Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin cancelled out Pascal Gross’ opener from a free-kick before Neal Maupay’s penalty followed by Digne’s own goal made it a night to remember for the Seagulls.
However, the exciting end-to-end encounter on the south coast was overshadowed by a penalty incident in the second half that eventually led to Maupay’s equaliser from the spot.
On-field referee Andrew Madley initially opted against awarding Brighton a penalty after Aaron Connolly had been brought down inside the box by Michael Keane’s challenge.
That apparently made sense given that there seemed to have been minimal contact between the two players, with the teenager going down pretty softly.
Shockingly, Lee Mason, who was the Video Assistant on duty, overturned the decision and Brighton were awarded a penalty, much to the anger and disbelief of the Everton players.
Notwithstanding the fact that Keane was, indeed, guilty of stepping on Connolly’s foot during the incident, it looked accidental more than anything else, with the replays hardly pointing to a clear and obvious error from Madly.
With the Video Assistant Referees showing a great deal of unwillingness to overturn blatantly incorrect on-field decisions in the first couple of months, questions have been raised on whether the technology is empowered to an extent that it is capable of making a big difference.
However, what happened on Saturday was a stark reminder that the VAR technology, indeed, has the power to stamp its authority, be it fairly or unfairly.
2. Wilfried Zaha’s penalty incident vs Arsenal
While Connolly’s penalty incident against Everton can be deemed as a VAR blemish, the technology somewhat made amends with its part in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace, albeit only partially.
With Arsenal leading 2-0, courtesy of goals from Sokratis and David Luiz, on-field referee Martin Atkinson booked Wilfried Zaha for diving inside the box when Calum Chambers brought the Ivorian down with a rather cynical-looking challenge.
What looked like a clear-cut penalty in the first instance was perceived to be an act of simulation by the referee but VAR eventually made the correct decision, much to the relief of the Palace players.
3. Sokratis’ disallowed goal
Sokratis must have thought that he had grabbed all three points for his team late in the game but Arsenal’s celebrations were cut short, with the VAR coming into play to disallow the centre-back’s goal for a foul on Luka Milivojevic in the build-up.
With so many players close to the ball amidst a lot of pushing and shoving, the replays only showed that there was a tangle of legs between Chambers and Milivojevic before Sokratis eventually rippled the net with a thumping finish.
Despite that fact that there was apparently no clear and obvious error made by Atkinson, the goal was surprisingly chalked off and both the teams went on to share the spoils.