By Andrew Warshaw
July 3 – The controversial use of VAR, which had taken something of a backseat amid the enthusiasm of matches getting back under way in the wake of Covid-19, burst into the spotlight again Thursday with one of the most farcical, non-sensical interpretations of the rule ever applied.
Tottenham Hotspur were well beaten 3-1 by a resurgent Sheffield United after a dismal second-half performance but much of the gloss of Sheffield’s victory was overshadowed by Tottenham having an equaliser ruled out just moments after the hosts had taken the lead.
England striker Harry Kane thought he had immediately cancelled out Sheffield’s opener, only to discover that teammate Lucas Moura – who had actually been fouled in the build-up to the goal – was penalized by the video assistant referee for inadvertently touching the ball as he fell to ground.
Commentators were incredulous that the goal was chalked off and Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho went even further, suggesting there was no longer any need for referees.
“I think the referee should always be the man on the pitch and the man in the office should support and assist,” Mourinho said. “But that’s not the way that it is.”
“Especially a referee who’s not very good on the pitch, we can’t expect him to be very good in the office. We’re going into a direction that is very bad for a game which was the game that everyone fell in love with.”
“Normally I am an emotional guy on the bench but, in this moment, I never complain with the man with the whistle because he’s not the referee anymore.
“I used to go to the fourth (official) but the man on the pitch is the assistant referee and today the man and the lady with the flag, (who) used to be the assistant referees, are now assistant’s assistant. The ref is in the office.”
Despite the incident, Mourinho, who has blamed previous poor results since he took over as manager on a string of injuries, can have no excuses. Spurs were almost at full strength yet were blown away in the second half, increasing the pressure on the self-styled (but no longer) ‘Special One’ who has yet to endear himself to the majority of Spurs fans.
After reaching last season’s Champions League final and being regular participants under previous manager Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs are almost certainly out of contention to qualify this time and are in danger of not even making the Europa League as they slipped to ninth in the Premier League.
“We have to be mentally stronger to cope with what happened during the game,” Mourinho said. “We cannot mentally die after the (VAR) decision.”
“I know that it’s very difficult to take, the players around the situation know what happened …but with 50 minutes to go we have to be stronger. “
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