Man City lost ground early in the EPL campaign to closest rivals Liverpool on Saturday, despite a masterclass from Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne assisted in both City goals and dominated midfield for the current Premier League Champions in what can only be described as a typical KDB performance. Unfortunately for De Bruyne, the English tabloids will not focus on his display but rather the late interjection of VAR to deny the blue half of Manchester all three points.
With 91 minutes on the clock, De Bruyne sent in a corner which Aymeric Laporte deflected into the path of Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus to finish. The Ethiad exploded and Pep Guardiola’s substitution of Gabriel Jesus for Sergio Aguero looked to have paid off, despite the Argentinian’s reaction to the swap in the 66 minutes, only for referee Michael Oliver to call it back after consulting with VAR.
Guardiola was upset after the game and referenced last season’s Champions League quarter-final between the two sides as exhibit A. “Why is it not handball with Llorente in the Champions League quarter-final last season, but why is it hands today?” he asked the gathered media, knowing full well the rules have changed, possibly due to the goal he referenced.
While it is still early in the season this is the second week where a goal has been ruled off using the new system and the second week where social media has gone into full-on meltdown mode.
Wolves fans did their best to bang the ‘VAR is evil’ drum last weekend, it is bound to be louder this go round because it’s City. Not only are they expected to challenge for the title come May, but with their recent success in the last decade they have built a worldwide following the likes Wolves can only dream about.
The ball clearly hits Laporte’s hand before falling to Jesus. Intentional or not the new rules states that if ‘a player wins ball possession after it comes off their hand or arm and then scores, or creates a goalscoring chance’ it will be called back. Therefore VAR got it right.
The problem is this wasn’t an isolated incident. Erik Lamela’s manhandling of Rodri in the first half wasn’t even looked at which annoyed Guardiola even more. “It was a penalty,” he told the press Saturday evening adding, “Maybe at that moment, VAR was taking a coffee.” And this is the underlining problem with VAR.
While the decisions that are reviewed get the correct outcome, too much goes on during the game to be able to get everything right. Plus, with constant rule changes, it is still the subjective view of the referee at the end of the day.
This is why I believe it should be saved for goals or clear goal-scoring opportunities (penalties) because if you are going to stop and review every contentious decision the game will suddenly be three hours long and nobody wants that happening to ‘The Beautiful Game’.