Bristol City

Bristol City slideshow

The Bristol City defender was a surprise omission from Australia's squad
'Gutted' Bailey Wright believes he deserved Socceroos selection
The Bristol City defender was a surprise omission from Australia's squad
The Bristol City defender was a surprise omission from Australia's squad
'Gutted' Bailey Wright believes he deserved Socceroos selection
The Bristol City defender was a surprise omission from Australia's squad
The Bristol City defender was a surprise omission from Australia's squad
'Gutted' Bailey Wright believes he deserved Socceroos selection
The Bristol City defender was a surprise omission from Australia's squad
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the call, with Gareth Southgate feeling the original decision did not constitute a 'clear and obvious' error. VAR verdict: Contentious. Appeal for Antonio Valencia to be sent off Manchester United vs Tottenham, FA Cup semi-final, April 21 Antonio Valencia was substituted immediatley after the incident Credit: BBC Sports Spurs were unhappy that Manchester United right-back escaped a second yellow card after dragging Dele Alli to the ground. The Tottenham attacker had pinched the ball from Valencia as he tried to shepherd the ball out for a throw, and in a panic he dragged Dele down as he drove towards the penalty area. Despite VAR being in use in both FA Cup semi-finals, the decision was not reviewed. Jose Mourinho's decision to immediately substitute Valencia was perhaps an admission of guilt. VAR verdict: Should have intervened, unsuccessful. Southampton's disallowed goal Chelsea vs Southampton, FA Cup semi-final, April 22 Mark Hughes was furious that VAR was not consulted Credit: BBC Sport Southampton were denied an equaliser in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea when Charlie Austin was judged to have fouled Willy Caballero. The Chelsea goalkeeper looked to spill a high ball over the line but the referee's whistle spared his blushed. Mark Hughes vented his anger post-match, saying: "We had no luck, the keeper made a glaring mistake and miscontrolled it. I assumed VAR was in operation and it was a clear opportunity or situation to review and get it correct." VAR verdict: Contentious. Alexis Sanchez disallowed goal Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Alexis Sanchez was rightly flagged for offside and Man Utd were denied an equaliser Credit: BTSport Manchester United thought they had found an equaliser as they pushed forward in the second half of the cup final, but Alexis Sanchez's goal was ruled out for offside. Thibaut Courtois brilliantly saved a Phil Jones header that was creeping in the bottom corner before Sanchez turned home the rebound. The linesman raised his flag, and VAR confirmed with referee Michael Oliver that the decision was correct. VAR verdict: Successful. Chelsea penalty appeal for Ashley Young handball Chelsea vs Manchester United. FA Cup final, May 19 Ashley Young's arm was not deemed to be in an unnatural position The final use of VAR in the domestic season. After David de Gea saved from Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses' chipped cross struck Ashley Young on the arm. Chelsea appealed vociferously but once again VAR ruled that Michael Oliver was correct to wave away their protests. That the ball struck Young's arm is not in doubt, but it was from point-blank range and his arm was deemed to be in a natural position. No penalty. VAR verdict: Contentious. Conclusion Despite the practical difficulties of introducing VAR, the fundamental problem with the system could turn out to be a philosophical one. VAR will undoubtedly lead to more correct decisions, the question is whether it is worth altering the very fabric of the game for the sake of a few percent accuracy. For players and managers with reputations on the line, the desire to rid football of 'injustice' is an understandable one. What about fans, however? The spontaneous eruption of joy that spreads through a stadium when the ball hits the net is football's essence. To curtail and sterilise that moment could threaten football as a source of entertainment. The only certainty is that now technology has been introduced, there is little chance of turning back - the toothpaste is out of the tube. There may be trouble ahead.
English football's 21 biggest VAR decisions and how they panned out
Depending on your perspective, the 2017-18 season was the first step to a more just footballing future or a worrying lurch towards a joyless dystopia. We are talking of course about the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee System, which English football got its first taste of in the FA Cup third round. Though goal-line technology has been utilised successfully in the Premier League since 2013-14, VAR is the first attempt to use technology to correct more subjective decisions. VAR intervenes when the officials have made a 'clear and obvious error' in one of four key areas: goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. Teething problems have included: failing to communicate decisions to match-going fans, ambiguity about what is a 'clear and obvious' error, lengthy delays, wavy lines, faulty technology and thwarted celebrations. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what unfolded when we decided to open Pandora's Box . Glenn Murray's goal Brighton and Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace, FA Cup 3rd round, January 8 Glenn Murray's late goal was allowed to stand after the referee consulted the VAR The season's second A13 derby between Brighton and Crystal Palace was a historic occasion, as the Video Assistant Referee system made its debut in English football. A drab game passed without much incident, until Glenn Murray bundled home the winner against his former club in the 87th minute. Palace claimed the ball had struck his hand, but replays confirmed it had in fact gone in off his knee. Video referee Neil Swarbrick informed on-field official Andre Marriner there was no need for an on-field review and the goal stood. VAR verdict: Correct decision. Ainsley Maitland-Niles penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Ainsley Maitland Niles carried on his run rather than going down Bristol City's Ashton Gate did not have the technology to support VAR, so the next time we saw the system was in the other Carabao Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Chelsea. Alex Iwobi's first-half attempt was pushed out by Thibaut Courtois but the fleet-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles got to the rebound first ahead of Chelsea's Victor Moses. He nicked the ball past Moses, who caught him lightly on his right boot. The Arsenal youngster stumbled but stayed upright and referee Martin Atkinson waved away shouts for a penalty. Granit Xhaka led the appeals, and Atkinson put his hand to his earpiece to consult Neil Swarbrick. He advised there was no obvious error, and the original decision stood. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Cesc Fabregas penalty appeal Chelsea vs Arsenal, Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, January 10 Replays showed Danny Welbeck got his foot to the ball Much like Maitland-Niles' appeal earlier in the match, this was a case of two players going for the ball and there being a split second between a foul and a clean tackle. Atkinson gave a corner - because he thought Danny Welbeck had got his foot to the ball - and replays showed his first instinct was correct. There was a delay before the corner was taken as Atkinson again pressed his hand to his ear-piece and the penalty was not given. Antonio Conte was unhappy post-match that the five minutes stoppage time did not account for the use of technology. VAR verdict: Contentious, but probably correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's disallowed goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Demarai Gray could not get his cross in before the ball had gone out Kelechi Iheanacho thought he had doubles Leicester's lead against Fleetwood when he converted Demarai Gray's pull-back, but linesman Lee Betts judged the ball had gone for a goal-kick. Referee John Moss checked the decision with VAR Mike Jones, who confirmed the linesman was right to raise his flag. No goal. VAR verdict: Correct. Kelechi Iheanacho's 'offside' goal Leicester City vs Fleetwood Town, FA Cup third round replay, January 16 Kelechi Iheanacho's goal against Fleetwood stood The first case of the video assistant refereeing overturning the referee's original decision. Kelechi Iheanacho latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball and tucked it away, before the linesman's flag cut his celebrations short. Jon Moss blew his whistle to disallow the goal, then put his finger to his ear to ask Mike Jones, the VAR, to check. Using the replays which feature a series of lines across the pitch, Jones told Moss the Nigerian was onside and the goal was good to stand. Moss made a rectangular TV signal, blew his whistle and pointed back to the centre circle to signal a goal. The celebrations at the King Power recommenced. VAR verdict: Correct. Willian's 'Dive' Chelsea vs Norwich City, FA Cup third round replay, January 17 The VAR decided there was no 'clear and obvious' error The most controversial incident since the system the was introduced. Willian's went down under the challenge of Timm Klose, but Graham Scott waved away his penalty appeal and booked the Brazilian for diving. The video referee Mike Jones did not intervene despite the fact contact replays showed between Willian and Klose. Whether that contact was sufficient for a penalty continued to be debated post-match, but there was complete consensus that Scott was wrong to book Willian for simulation. The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd admitted as much the next day. VAR verdict: Failed. West Brom's disallowed goal at Anfield Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Gareth Barry was in an offside position West Brom fans were delirious in the Anfield Road end thinking their team had a 3-1 lead inside 20 minutes, only to see the goal (correctly) ruled out two minutes later. Replays showed Gareth Barry was in an offside flick-on when Craig Dawson's head met a West Brom corner, but there was widespread confusion at Anfield. Referee Craig Pawson stood with his hand to his ear as VAR Andre Marriner looked at the replays before judging there was a clear and obvious. To add to the sense of the bizarre, Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 then flashed up on the scoreboard. VAR verdict: A farce but the correct decision. Liverpool's penalty against West Brom Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Mo Salah went down under the challenge of Jake Livermore A rare case of an 'on-field review', as Pawson walked over to the side of the pitch to watch a replay on a TV screen. Mo Salah was felled in the West Brom penalty area after Jake Livermore pulled his shirt. The forward pleaded with Pawson to consult the technology available, but it took four minutes for the penalty to finally be awarded. To West Brom's relief, Roberto Firmino hit the bar from the spot. VAR verdict: Contentious call and took too long. West Brom's third allowed to stand Liverpool vs West Brom, FA Cup fourth round, January 26 Pawson checked if Craig Dawson was offside West Brom's third came on the stroke of half-time and again Pawson spoke to VAR Marriner via his earpiece to check if Craig Dawson was offside. He was not, and after Joel Matip turned his low cross into the Liverpool net the goal was allowed to stand. VAR verdict: Correct. Juan Mata's disallowed goal for offside at Huddersfield Huddersfield vs Man Utd, FA Cup fifth round, February 17 Mata's right knee was adjudged to be offside Credit: BT Sport Juan Mata looked to have doubled Man Utd's lead in the FA Cup fifth round at Huddersfield, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net. Referee Kevin Friend consulted with VAR for what look a marginal offside decision, and after a two or three minute wait eventually disallowed the goal when replays showed Mata's knee was offside. That was not the end of the controversy, however. During BT Sport's live coverage, a replay appeared with lines that looked as if they had been drawn by a four-year-old with crayon. Graphics provider Hawk Eye later issued an apology for a technical problem. VAR verdict: Farce. A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to @btsportfootball last night. To confirm, the #VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise. pic.twitter.com/QqbAWVfbi1— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) February 18, 2018 Erik Lamela disallowed goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Fernando Llorente was penalised for a foul Erik Lamela thought he had put Spurs in front in their FA Cup replay against League One Rochdale, tapping into an empty net after Fernando Llorente held off Harrison McGahey. Referee Pal Tierney spent about a minute consulting VAR however, before chalking the goal off when it was decided the Spanish striker had committed a foul. It was just the start of a chaotic 50-minute halve at Wembley. FA chief executive Martin Glenn later admitted this decision was a 'mistake'. VAR verdict: A mess. Lucas Moura penalty appeal Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Lucas Moura's penalty appeal was turned down Credit: Reuters McGahey was once again at the centre of the action after 22 minutes when Lucas Moura went to ground under his challenge. Tierney reviewed the decision - resulting in another stoppage of a minute or so - and concluded that the contact was insufficient to give a penalty. VAR verdict: Correct. Tottenham penalty fiasco Tottenham Hotspur vs Rochdale, FA Cup fifth-round replay, February 28 Spurs were awarded a free-kick before VAR judged the foul took place inside the area Credit: AFP Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale's Matt Done and Spurs are awarded a free-kick. However, VAR judged that the foul had happened inside the penalty area and the decision was changed to a penalty kick. Heung-min Son stepped up and tucked it away, before events took another bizarre turn. Son was penalised for stuttering his run up Credit: BBC Sport Referee Tierney blew his whistle to address VAR, before showing Son a yellow card and disallowing the goal before he 'feinted' just before striking the penalty. The Laws of the Game indicate that a player deemed to have feinted at the end of his run should be shown a yellow card for unsporting behavior, though stuttering mid-run is permitted. VAR verdict: Strange, but technically correct. Heung-min Son disallowed goal Swansea City vs Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup quarter-final, March 16 Spurs in FA Cup action again, as a Heung-min Son goal was disallowed for offside in their comfortable 3-0 quarter-final victory at Swansea. The Tottenham forward was flagged for offside, but crashed a shot in off the crossbar. It was a marginal call and referee Kevin Friend decided to consult VAR, which upheld the original decision by the finest of margins. Potential controversy was averted, because the referee had already blown his whistle when Son shot and Swansea's defenders could have claimed they stopped playing. VAR verdict: Successful. Italy's late penalty against England England vs Italy, international friendly, March 27 Debate raged as to whether James Tarkowski's challenge was a foul Credit: AP England's concession of a late penalty was the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for Gareth Southgate, and it proved controversial. Federico Chiesa skipped into the England penalty area with a few minutes to play, and took a tumble in the middle of a crowded England defence as the ball ran out of play. Initially, Italy's player's appealed vociferously for a corner. But on the advice of the video assistant, referee Deniz Aytekin reviewed the incident at the side of the pitch giving the 'box' signal that indicates a review. England were on the wrong end of VAR Replays showed Tarkwoski stood on Chiesa's foot, although the Italian was already on his way down and had lost control of the ball. The referee changed his original decision and awarded the penalty which Lorenzo Insigne converted. Even after several slow-motion replays, opinion was divided about the ca