VAR controversy: Referee defends half-time penalty

In one of the strangest incidents involving VAR to date, 1. FSV Mainz 05 were awarded a penalty during half-time in their victory over SC Freiburg on Monday.

Shortly before the half-time whistle, referee Guido Winkmann waved away a penalty shout from the Mainz players after Freiburg defender Marc-Oliver Kempf looked to have handled in his own box.

The whistle blew and the Freiberg players made their way to the dressing room while Mainz players slowly made their way towards the touchline.

But Winkmann then decided to run to the other side of the pitch and view the incident on a monitor.

He signalled a penalty and told the lingering Mainz players to return to the field.

It took several more minutes for the message to get to the Freiburg players, who were already back in their dressing room, but they eventually made their way back onto the pitch as well.

Finally, six minutes after the half-time whistle first blew, midfielder Pablo de Blasis stepped up and scored the penalty to put Mainz 1-0 up. They would go on to win the match 2-0.

“It leaves a bitter taste,” said Freiburg sporting director Jochen Saier afterwards, adding his side had to “accept it with a heavy heart”.

“We were under the impression that when the referee blows for half-time that’s it,” said Saier.

But Winkmann defended his decision afterwards.

“I was not aware at the time that there was a handball, but when I later saw the images myself, it definitely was,” said the ref.

“We played through just such a scenario on a pre-season course.

“Of course, something like this is unusual, and I wouldn’t be happy about it as one of the clubs involved.

“A halftime whistle only interrupts the game, the final whistle finishes it and such a decision would not have been possible.”

The second half of the match was also delayed because of a totally separate issue – fans protesting against Bundesliga fixtures being played on Monday nights.

Irate supporters pelted the pitch with toilet rolls in protest against the new fixture.