Big vs Little: VAR’s debut in Champions League sparks Ajax allegations of favourtism

February 14 – The video assistant referee system made its eagerly anticipated Champions League debut in the last-16 this week – and immediately caused huge controversy.

Ajax, four-time European champion but who haven’t won the title since 1995, looked to have taken the lead against reigning three-time holders Real Madrid on Wednesday only for VAR to rule out Nicolas Tagliafico’s 37th minute header because Dusan Tadic was standing in an offside position, impeding goalkeeper Thibout Courtois.

It was the first time VAR had actually been used to disallow a goal in the Champions League and caused plenty of arguments on Twitter.

UEFA’s own social media account explained the incident as follows: “VAR in the UCL: in the 38th minute of the Ajax v Madrid first leg, Nicolás Tagliafico’s headed goal was ruled out following a VAR review. The referee identified that Tagliafico’s team-mate Dušan Tadić was in an offside position and interfering with the goalkeeper – preventing him from playing or being able to play the ball – as the header was being made. This was in line with VAR protocol and the goal was correctly overturned and a free-kick given for offside.”

But Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong was having none of it claiming the bigger clubs are given preferential treatment. “Maybe something like that is easy to do in favour of a big club,” he said after the 2-1 first-leg defeat.

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