Controversial penalties, outrageous offsides, and complete neglect of the pitch-side monitor – VAR’s introduction to the Premier League has been rocky, to say the least. The technology has tested the patience of players, managers, and even the supporters and we pick out five of the most shocking calls.
#5 Jorginho (Chelsea) vs Watford
Confidence can make a man take risks he wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic had confidence racing through their veins, so much so, that they decided to play a little game of one-two inside their penalty box against Watford.
Gerard Deulofeu caught the scent of a brewing calamity and jumped in to steal the ball off Jorginho. The Italian made the tiniest of contacts with the Spaniard after he lost the ball, which the latter made the most off after taking a heavy touch. The referee rightly waved play on.
However, as has become a tradition this season, the call went to the Video Assistant Referee, who decided to reverse the original decision and award a penalty! Deulofeu scored from the spot-kick which he had won forcing Chelsea to defend for their lives in the final ten minutes of their Premier League match. The Blues held on to a two-one scoreline despite Watford going close through goalkeeper Ben Foster in the added time upon stoppage time.
#4 Aaron Connolly (Brighton) vs Everton
Everton were leading Brighton by two goals to one with ten minutes to go in their league encounter. The Toffees were desperate for three points, having begun the season on a terrible note. However, the blue half of Merseyside released a collective sigh when VAR decided to award a controversial penalty to Brighton in the eightieth minute.
The Seagulls’ striker Aaron Connolly went down clutching his ankle after a challenge from Michael Keane. Though there seemed no contact at first, the technology eventually decided to award a penalty to the home side. Neal Maupay stepped up and scored to level the match.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Brighton scored again, this time through Lucas Digne, who deflected the ball into his own net. Everton lost the match three-two. What made the situation worse was the fact that Premier League admitted they had made a mistake in giving that penalty!
#3 John Lundstram (Sheffield United) vs Tottenham Hotspur
VAR is new to the game and its understanding and application are still being upgraded day after day. A lack of clarity surrounding its usage has clouded all the positives it brings to the game, especially in the Premier League.
One such unclear and dubious judgement was passed in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when the struggling home side played an in-form Sheffield United.
Despite their poor form, Spurs managed to take the lead against the Blades, who were the dominant side leading up to the goal. However, Chris Wilder’s men gave an immediate response of their own, or at least they thought they did.
David McGoldrick scored for the Blades to level the match but while the team celebrated, the decision went to VAR. The technology checked whether John Lundstram, whose involvement in the play had been limited, was offside or not. The decision went in Spurs’ favour and the goal was ruled out based on offside with questions being raised over VARs disregard of the phase of play.
#2 Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) vs Watford
One match which brought up several VAR-related arguments was Tottenham Hotspur against Watford. Both sides were struggling in the league and thus needed a win each to end their slump. However, the match ended in a draw in rather controversial circumstances.
Watford received an early blow when the video assistant decided to ignore a blatant penalty call. However, things got much worse in the dying embers of the game, when Dele Alli scored a questionable equalizer.
Alli appeared to have controlled the ball using his hand but the goal was given and the match ended in a draw. Speaking after the game, the England international stated his relief after his goal was given.
“Of course, it’s a relief. There were two times he [the referee] stopped it when he was making the decisions. We weren’t sure why,” he said.
#1 Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) vs Manchester City
Champions Manchester City visited challengers Liverpool on matchday twelve of the Premier League 2019/20. The match promised plenty of action even before the ball was kicked with two of the best sides in Europe facing each other. The mind games were already in play, the line-ups had been drawn, and a fast start at Anfield was desired by those watching.
And a fast start it was albeit only for the home side. Liverpool shocked their title rivals by going up two-nil within the opening fifteen minutes of the game. Fabinho scored first and Mohamed Salah added another to hand the Citizens a huge blow right at the beginning. Barring the home supporters, who were still reeling from the delight of going two-up, the entire Premier League was calibrating the legitimacy of the goals.
The first goal was especially controversial and the build-up play has been dissected several times over since then. The ball appeared to hit the hand of Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold inside his penalty box but neither the referee nor the VAR decided to give Manchester City a spot-kick. The Reds scored their opening goal in the same play, further angering the away and parts of the neutral support.