Referees’ chief admits VAR mistakes in Newcastle’s contentious win over Arsenal

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04: Anthony Gordon of Newcastle United celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on November 04, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Webb said Gordon's goal for Newcastle against Arsenal was right to stand
Webb said Gordon’s goal for Newcastle against Arsenal was right to stand

Referees’ chief Howard Webb has attempted to draw a line under a VAR row with Arsenal by insisting officials were right to allow Anthony Gordon’s controversial winning goal for Newcastle United earlier this month.

But Webb admitted ref Stuart Attwell and his team did miss two red cards in the hot-tempered match at St James’ Park on 4 November, which Newcastle won 1-0 to inflict Arsenal’s first Premier League defeat of the season.

Gordon’s tap-in was subject to three separate checks by Video Assistant Referee Andy Madley, for the possibility of the ball going out of play earlier in the move, Joelinton’s challenge on Gabriel and offside before being given.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta labelled the decisions “a disgrace” in a furious post-match media appearance which his club backed up with a statement 24 hours later, putting both on course for possible disciplinary action.

Appearing on TV show Match Officials Mic’d Up on Tuesday evening, Webb conceded that the goal had prompted “an unusual situation, with three aspects for the VAR to check”, but ultimately backed all three calls.

He said Madley was right to determine there was no conclusive angle to rule the ball had gone out of play before Joe Willock retrieved it and crossed for Joelinton, whose challenge, Webb said, “could be a foul, might be a foul – the VAR decides the footage isn’t clear to intervene for a clear error”. He added that subsequent debate showed that it was a subjective matter.

Lastly, VAR could not pinpoint the precise moment to check offside as the ball wedged between Joelinton and Gabriel, despite recognising that goalkeeper David Raya’s position means Gordon could be off. “The process actually was correct,” Webb said.

The PGMOL boss admitted, however, that both teams should have had a man sent off, Newcastle for Bruno Guimaraes’ forearm smash on Jorginho and Arsenal for Kai Havertz’s high lunge on Sean Longstaff.

“A couple of situations that, in the cold light of day, we would expect a red card in both of those situations,” Webb said.