VAR will have a love-hate relationship with football fans

Match referee Deniz Aytekin consults the VAR system in an International friendly between England and Italy.

After Real Madrid were awarded a controversial stoppage-time penalty by Michael Oliver in their quarter-final Champions League clash against Juventus, many enraged football fans have called for VAR’s immediate implementation, writes DEAN WORKMAN.

The significance of the penalty was there for all to see. The Old Lady had produced the perfect performance for 91 minutes, overcoming the 3-0 deficit they faced from the first leg. After scoring three goals to lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, Massimiliano Allegri’s team look destined to force the game into extra time. That was until Lucas Vazquez was brought down by Medhi Benatia in stoppage time.

Oliver hesitated then pointed to the spot. The decision was met with anger from the Juve players who quite clearly felt the referee got the decision wrong. The Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon was so irate that he was given his marching orders for his reaction.

And just like that the whole tie, 180 minutes, would go down to one kick of the football. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to rifle home the penalty, sending Madrid through to the semi-finals.

After the game, Buffon continued his attack on the referee as did his teammates Medhi Benatia and Giorgio Chiellini, who all felt that Oliver had got the decision wrong.

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has now called on Uefa to implement VAR, ‘The most important thing is we have the technology, it exists and is in use, so we have to bring it into the Champions League. The referee tonight, when he sees it back, will be the most disappointed person here to realise what happened.’

This was not the first time this week that a Champions League game has hinged on a contested refereeing decision. On Tuesday, Manchester City were 1-0 up in their attempt to overturn Liverpool’s 3-0 first leg lead. On the stroke of half-time, Pep Guardiola’s team thought they had doubled their lead, only for the referee to rule the goal out for offside. The ball bounced back off James Milner after Loris Karius’ poor punch and it fell to Leroy Sane, who put the ball in the back of the net.

The decision made Guardiola see red, both literally and figuratively. The City manager confronted the referee at half-time and got sent to watch the second half in the stands.

Asked why he was sent off after confronting the referee, Guardiola replied: ‘I said it [Sane’s effort] was a goal. I didn’t insult him, I was polite, I was correct. But Mateu Lahoz is a special guy, he likes to be different, he likes to be special.’

He added at a news conference: ‘It’s different to go in 1-0 at half-time to 2-0. It’s different when the first goal in Anfield from Salah is offside. In these kinds of competitions, the impact is so big.’

City midfielder Bernardo Silva then reacted on Instagram, echoing the calls of the Juventus stadium in asking Uefa to start using VAR in the Champions League next season.

In Manchester City’s case, VAR would have solved the problem in a matter of seconds. With Madrid’s penalty, however, that is not the case.

I, for one, think that the referee made the right call and it took a lot of guts to do so. It seems though that I am not part of the majority as millions of football fans have taken to social media over the last 48 hours lambasting Oliver’s decision. If VAR was in play and the English referee did overturn his decision, I’m sure there would be a million more fans who would show a similar reaction to the ones we are seeing now.

We will see VAR in this summer’s World Cup and fans should prepare themselves with the inevitable love-hate relationship that will develop with the system. I have no doubt that we will see some controversial VAR calls in Russia and that is likely to continue as the system goes through the necessary teething process.

The fact of the matter is that if your team benefits from a tight call, you will be happy, but if they are on the other end, there will undoubtedly be a negative backlash.

So, my advice for all football fans is to strap in. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

Follow Dean Workman on Twitter: @DeanoWorks 

Photo: Nick Potts/Backpagepix

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