Well that was eventful! In only its fourth outing in a competitive match in England (the same as Jamal Lewis!) VAR was called into action on three occasions. And made no changes to the referee’s decision on three occasions. But did it do its job?
I would argue yes. But not in the way people expected…
As a Video Assistant Referee, VAR made only one mistake
The key events:
Pedro dived trying to win a penalty: Referee Graham Scott correctly spotted the dive and booked the offender. VAR not needed (but would hopefully have overturned the penalty if awarded.
Willian was caught by Klose when diving to get a penalty: Scott booked the Brazilian for diving. Mike Jones, the Video Assistant Referee, agreed there was not enough contact to overturn the ref’s decision. (Had Scott given a pen, you’d have to assume VAR would’ve agreed with that too.) The replay should have seen Willian’s booking overturned.
Morata dived trying to win a penalty: Again, there was contact, but Morata clearly dived in an attempt to con the referee into giving a spot kick. Scott booked the player twice – once for the dive, once for his reaction. Jones used the video technology to once again determine that no ‘clear or obvious’ error had been made.
So, apart from failing to overturn Willian’s booking, VAR worked correctly. Three controversial moments. Three correct decisions by the ref (even if two would also have been correct if the opposite decision was made).
There’s clearly work to be done on implementing the system. But its impact seems generally positive. Especially because…
As an omnipresent second opinion, VAR excelled
Where, for me, VAR worked superbly was that it gave Graham Scott the power to not give a penalty. As a Norwich fan, too often in the past, I’ve seen the bigger teams given ‘soft’ penalties. Especially in their own back garden.
Hostile crowds and influential managers intimidate referees into giving these sides borderline decisions. Far better to annoy a ‘lesser’ team’s manager than a Mourinho or a Ferguson.
With the knowledge that VAR would highlight any incident that was a definite penalty, Scott was able to choose not to award one in the first instance. And that levels the playing field and cuts down on cheating in one fell swoop.
While Chelsea fans and their Italian manager may not agree, I thought VAR had a good game last night. Nearly as good as the referee himself. And much better than the Premier League team. Perhaps the Blue’s fans should vent their frustration at issues a bit closer to home than a ref with a monitor in West London.