The Video Assistant Referee system was used in the English top flight for the first time during the opening weekend, and already there has been plenty of controversy.
The major talking points came from Manchester City and Wolves, who both had a goal ruled out by VAR, although City’s luck evened out when their later penalty was retaken having been saved.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told talkSPORT that while he remains a fan of VAR the lengthy delays it caused in the top flight ruined ‘the spirit of the game’.
Meanwhile, Danny Murphy has called for the innovative technology to be scrapped after just one weekend in operation.
“Something doesn’t feel right at the moment when I’m watching football,” he said.
“I know the majority of what VAR did at the weekend was good – corrected some decisions that would not have been – but if you gave me a choice now, I would knock it on the head.”
The Press Association has had a look at the key incidents involving the new technology across the opening weekend.
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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, so 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,” the words of 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.”
The Premier League released a statement on Sunday shortly after the incident clarifying the decision to award the goal, despite the ball accidentally hitting Boly’s arm.
This read: “IFAB law states that it is a handball offence if a player gains possession/control of the ball after it has touched their hand/arm and then scores in the opponents’ goal or creates a goal-scoring opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it’s accidental.”
Sergio on the spot
Sergio Aguero had better luck when it came to VAR after his initial penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski, but earned a reprieve following an encroachment in the penalty area.
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.
This was demonstrated when Hammers midfielder Declan Rice was the man penalised on this occasion, having intervened before the kick was taken and then affected play by clearing the loose ball.
Red card reviews make no impact
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 evident to see 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.
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 also 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.