VAR stumbles as UEFA Champions League gets to grips with its new video ref

By Samindra Kunti

February 21 – The newly arrived video refs were in the spotlight once more in the Champions League last night as both the Schalke 04 vs Manchester City and Atletico Madrid vs Juventus matches were punctuated by VAR incidents.

In Gelsenkirchen, a first-half, long-range attempt hitting Argentinean defender Nicolas Otamendi caused controversy. Schalke’s Daniel Caligiuri claimed a penalty and play was held up as VAR checked for evidence of a “clear and obvious mistake”. Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande was then prevented from doing an on-field review as the touchline monitor was broken during the 1st half. The fans in the stands remained in the dark as well, because of a lack of replays on the big screen.

Ultimately the referee awarded a penalty after a three-minute delay. Schalke later won a second penalty and Otamendi was sent off for City.  Manchester City eventually ran out 2-3 winners with goals in the 85th and 90th minute despite what looked like getting the wring end of the VAR decision making.

The win made it easier for Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola came out in defence of the video technology which could have been match changing.

“It’s a penalty,” said Guardiola in his post-match comments. “I’m a big fan of VAR. The second one is a penalty too. It was offside too – so, if we complain about VAR maybe it was offside, but it was a penalty and the red card can be a red card. VAR needs time. Next time it will be better.”

VAR almost overshadowed Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 win over Juventus as Alvaro Morata had a goal ruled out in the 70th minute with the match deadlocked. The hosts thought they had taken the lead when the Italian striker powered home Filipe Luis’ cross from the left, but following an on-field referee German referee Felix Zwayer decided Morata had pushed Giorgio Chiellini before scoring.

The video review system has been in use for nine days in the Champions League and the first three match days in the round of 16 were uncontroversial, but the multiple incidents last night have reignited the debate about VAR’s merits. Last year FIFA used the system at the World Cup in Russia, but Europe’s governing body were more cautious and conservative in their approach and delayed the introduction of the technology.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1552961882labto1552961882ofdlr1552961882owedi1552961882sni@o1552961882fni1552961882