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VAR – the key incidents as Premier League welcomes new technology

There was controversy at West Ham, Leicester and Burnley while the system raised eyebrows elsewhere.

VAR – the key incidents as Premier League welcomes new technology

The Video Assistant Referee system was a major talking point on its first weekend in Premier League action.

Manchester City and Wolves each had a goal disallowed by VAR, although City’s luck evened out when their later penalty was retaken having been saved.

Here, PA looks at the key incidents involving the new technology across the opening weekend.

Sterling shoulders the burden of first call

There was widespread disbelief as Manchester City were denied what would have been their third goal – and Gabriel Jesus’ second – after VAR ruled Raheem Sterling offside by the narrowest possible margin in the build-up, with his left shoulder just beyond the last defender.

Offside decisions are not subject to the same “clear and obvious error” caveat as other uses of the review system and this could be one area leading to a lot of stoppages and marginal reviews.

“We’re going to have to play with our hands chopped off”

So said Wolves captain Conor Coady, who was far from impressed after VAR denied his side a winner at Leicester.

Leander Dendoncker fired home after his initial header struck the arm of team-mate Willy Boly, whose back was turned, at point-blank range. As with offside, there are no grey areas here – any touch with the hand which leads to a goal being scored will be penalised under the new handball law.

“If that is not a goal, there is a problem,” a frustrated Coady said after the game. “They have brought VAR in to rectify all those problems but I think it has gone too far the other way now.”

Sergio on the spot

Referee Mike Dean, right, awaits the VAR's verdict as Declan Rice looks on
Referee Mike Dean, right, awaits the VAR’s verdict as Declan Rice looks on in the background (Adam Davy/PA)

Jesus and Sterling’s team-mate Sergio Aguero had better luck with VAR when his penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski but he was given a second chance.

The decision appeared to resemble several against keepers in the recent Women’s World Cup, given that Fabianski had strayed from his line, but a higher standard is applied for such incidents in the Premier League – in fact, Hammers midfielder Declan Rice was the man penalised on this occasion, having encroached before the kick was taken and then affected play by clearing the loose ball.

Red card reviews make no impact

Che Adams, second left, challenges Burnley’s Ben Mee
Che Adams, second left, challenges Burnley’s Ben Mee (Martin Rickett/PA)

In line with the International Football Association Board’s original VAR policy of “minimum interference, maximum benefit”, the Premier League’s protocols include “a high bar for subjective decisions”.

This was seen in the game at the London Stadium as well as that between Burnley and Southampton as both Michail Antonio catching City midfielder Rodri with a flailing arm and Saints striker Che Adams’ challenge on Ben Mee were reviewed for possible red cards but no further action was taken.

Communication breakdown

Simon Bennett, centre, comes to the sideline for running repairs
Simon Bennett, centre, comes to the sideline for running repairs (Martin Rickett/PA)

The flurry of VAR discussion on Saturday came after a quiet opening night for the system, when it was not required during Liverpool’s win over Norwich save for unobtrusive checks on each goal.

There was a delay to the start of the second half when assistant referee Simon Bennett’s earpiece failed, but this would have been an issue even before the introduction of VAR and the Premier League quickly tweeted that the issue was unrelated.

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