VAR official removed after Newcastle penalty blunder as UCL groups go down to the wire

November 29 – The VAR official who awarded Paris St. Germain a controversial stoppage-time Champions League penalty against Newcastle on Tuesday night has been removed from duty by UEFA for another fixture tonight.

Tomasz Kwiatkowski of Poland has been stood down for Real Sociedad vs RB Salzburg after a handball ruling that robbed Newcastle of a vital win that could end up wrecking their participation, with qualification no longer in their hands.

Regarded as one of the world’s best referees, Szymon Marciniak took charge of last year’s World Cup final between Argentina and France. The Polish referee was also the man in the middle for June’s Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.

Yet under pressure from PSG players he refused to stick with his original decision after being sent to the monitor by compatriot Kwiatkowski in the 98th and final minute after the ball inadvertently struck the arm of Tino Livramento after first hitting his chest.

It was nowhere near a “clear and obvious” refereeing error, however, and was roundly lambasted by media pundits, once again calling into question the efficacity of VAR.

Had Newcastle won in the French capital they would have had their Champions League destiny in their own hands, but now must beat AC Milan in their final group game and hope Dortmund get at least a point against PSG to progress to the knockout stages.

Speaking after the game, Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said: “In my opinion it’s not the right decision, but you fear the worst when it goes to the monitor.

“The speed of it and the ricochet, slowed down, looks different. The ball hits Tino’s chest and then hits his arm, but it’s not an unnatural movement.

“It was a poor decision with so little time left, but there’s nothing we can do with it now.

“I have to control myself, that’s my job. It doesn’t do any good to lose control of what you think and say.”

Barca through

Barcelona are through to the round of 16 after last night’s victory over second-place Porto at the Estadi Lluis Companys stadium; the Blaugrana’s temporary home whilst the Spotify Camp Nou undergoes reconstruction.

Manchester City made it five wins from five in their comeback victory over RB Leipzig. Regardless of the victory, the result would have a minimal effect on the leaderboard with both teams already qualified for the Round of 16.

Atletico and Lazio will join them in the round of 16 thanks to convincing wins over Feyenoord and Celtic respectively.

Big night ahead

Manchester United face a must-win tie with Galatasaray in what could be a season-defining 90 minutes for the Red Devils. Despite FC Bayern’s early qualification, the race for second remains wide open with every team yet to clear five points. The Red Devils face a cruel last match against the group leaders, so will be looking to take the opportunity to score some valuable points this evening.

Arsenal could qualify for the round of 16 with a point tonight against Lens, who are currently second in Group B.

Napoli will be looking to join Real Madrid in the round of 16 from Group C, as the two sides face off in Madrid. The Serie A champions are heavy favourites to progress from the group, sat four points clear of third-place Braga, who Napoli will play in the last group game in December.

Inter and Real Sociedad have both qualified for the next round of the competition, so will be competing for first and second in order to gain a favourable pot in the UCL draw. Tonight’s schedule shows that Inter will play pointless Benfica whilst Real Sociedad host RB Salzburg.

Contact the writers of this story at andrew.warshaw@insideworldfootball or moc.l1709385426labto1709385426ofdlr1709385426owedi1709385426sni@g1709385426niwe.1709385426yrrah1709385426