If you're a football fanatic, you know it's that time of the year. Champions League? Of course. Premier League? Totally. Domestic cup competitions? Hell yeah! But what all of this brings in is frustrating, controversial and game-changing decisions from the referees.
© Manchester Evening News
Agreed, they're only human so they can make mistakes but if various footballing theories are to be believed, sometimes the bogus decisions are given just to influence the overall look of the season or worse, a referee hunting for the limelight. Whether it's Chelsea getting robbed of second straight Champions League final (2009) because of atrocious refereeing or Bayern Munich being denied clear penalties against Real Madrid, we've seen it all.
Quite often UEFA has been branded 'UEFALona' and 'UEFAMadrid' just to showcase the organization's sudden 'soft corner' for the Spanish clubs. And it was hard to disagree with. Chelsea vs Barcelona semi-final was said to be doctored by UEFA itself, in order to avoid an 'all English finale' (Manchester United other finalists) for two years in a row, thinking it'll affect the popularity as well as TV ratings of the competition. With the introduction of VAR) (Video Assistant Referee) in Champions League, it was a different ball game (pun intended) last night. VAR is just like DRS in cricket but for football.
In one of the most anticipated ties of the round of 16, Atletico Madrid faced Juventus at Wanda Metropolitano. It was merely 27 minutes on the clock when Atletico was awarded a penalty for De Sciglio's alleged foul on Diego Costa. The decision was correctly overturned by VAR since the foul happened outside of the box. That was not the only contribution of Video Assistant Referee as it again came to Juventus' rescue, this time Alvaro Morata's thumping header gave Atletico the lead before VAR intervened and decided against it.
© Manchester Evening News
VAR's influence was felt 1800 kms North of Madrid in Gelsenkirchen (Germany) as well. Schalke were the clear underdogs coming into this match, thanks to their plummeting domestic form under manager Domenico Tedesco. After conceding an early goal due to defensive chaos, the German side came back in the contest when VAR awarded Schalke a penalty, after Nicolas Otamendi handled the ball, which was earlier denied by the on-field referee. However, a decision like this couldn't help Schalke deal with City's immense quality as the English club cruised to victory even with down to 10 men.
After a successful World Cup, VAR has proven time and again that it is what 'the beautiful game' needs in order to keep it fair. The only concern is that it is a machine and chances of a machine failing are very high. On average it takes only about a minute or so for VAR to arrive at a decision but last night it took about three, which is a lot considering the quick nature of football and how you only need a second to change the game. Although UEFA clarified that the delay was caused because of the faulty pitch side monitor, but delays like these cannot be ignored.
All in all, VAR has its pros and cons but one thing that it can guarantee is extinction of infamous moments like Hand Of God, Neuer's Ghost Save Vs England, Thiago Motta's Red Card Vs Barcelona and many more.
Here are the best Twitter reactions on VAR from last night.
This match is the best advertise for VAR. Great stuff.— hash (@hashim0307) February 20, 2019
I've no problem with the decisions VAR made but Jesus Christ it cannot take that long, like many have said, if it takes over 2 and half minutes to figure out it definitely isn't clear and obvious— Camobabo (@CamoBabo) February 21, 2019
#VAR is just like giving a kid a gun !!!!— khalid alkhattaf (@AlkhattafKhalid) February 21, 2019 February 21, 2019
The hand ball rule is stupid. Judging whether or not something is deliberate when the ball is travelling that fast is impossible. With VAR I'd expect them to have a better understanding but obviously not.— Calum (@CalArsenal) February 21, 2019