One football legend said it could “ruin football forever”, while a second said it made an “unbelievable” decision. It’s fair to say Saturday was another controversial day for VAR in the Premier League.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was first to speak out – saying there was “another huge question mark” about the technology after Tottenham midfielder Giovani lo Celso was not punished for a “leg-breaker” tackle in Saturday’s opening match.
And there were further incidents involving the video assistant referee in Bournemouth’s defeat at Burnley and Manchester City’s win at Leicester.
“I want it to work and help them and make the game better,” said Lampard. “It was so wrong today.
“Referees have such a difficult job and VAR was brought in to help them. I hate to call for red cards but that is a leg-breaker of a tackle.”
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel went as far as suggesting VAR would “ruin football forever” if it was not removed.
VAR was introduced in the Premier League this season but has angered fans who cite inconsistencies in decision-making and say the time it takes for rulings to be made kills the passion and excitement of games.
Speaking in November, Neil Swarbrick – the Premier League referees’ lead on VAR – gave its introduction a mark of seven out of 10 and asked fans to be patient as the system evolved.
What happened at Chelsea?
Lo Celso stood on Cesar Azpilicueta’s shin when tackled by the full-back 52 minutes into the Blues’ 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
After on-field referee Michael Oliver did not discipline Lo Celso, the incident was reviewed by David Coote at the VAR base in Stockley Park, west London.
He decided the incident was not worthy of a red card.
Lampard said: “It is a clear human decision – straight to Stockley Park, red card, game goes on but that one was wrong.”
During the game, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Mark Chapman was given a statement by the Professional Game Match Officials Board – the body responsible for Premier League referees.
He said: “I have a statement on why that wasn’t a red card… give me strength… not a clear and obvious error because the VAR didn’t feel there was anywhere else for Lo Celso to put his foot.”
After the game finished, Chapman tweeted the station had spoken to Stockley Park and, on reflection, “they did think the tackle was a red card”.
“They do want to reiterate it was a human being making a decision on a subjective event, but also said the challenge did ‘tick the boxes’ of being a red card,” Chapman tweeted.
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho had little to say on the controversy.
“I didn’t watch it,” the Portuguese said. “I didn’t watch on TV and in the game. I don’t know.”
Chelsea were also left with a sense of injustice after their defeat by Manchester United on Monday, when United’s Harry Maguire was not sent off for appearing to kick Michy Batshuayi.
Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso scored the Blues’ goals against Spurs, with Antonio Rudiger deflecting in a late consolation for the visitors.
What happened at Burnley?
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe felt his side were “very harshly treated” as they lost 3-0 at Burnley in a game that had a pivotal VAR decision at its centre.
With the home side ahead through Matej Vydra’s second goal in two games, Bournemouth broke the length of the field for Callum Wilson to set up namesake Harry for what they thought was an equaliser.
But VAR judged Adam Smith had used his upper arm to control and clear a Burnley cross in his own area at the start of the move – meaning the goal was disallowed and the home side were awarded a penalty.
Jay Rodriguez scored the resulting spot-kick to give the Clarets a two-goal lead, before Dwight McNeil found the net from distance to seal victory late on.
What happened at Leicester?
The home side felt they should have had a penalty when Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson came flying out and clattered Kelechi Iheanacho as they challenged for the ball.
But play continued without any significant check from VAR.
There was more irritation when they were not awarded a penalty when a free-kick hit Kevin de Bruyne’s hands inside the box.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get a penalty – it’s so clear,” said Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.
“I felt it was the reason VAR was brought in. It was going towards the goal, the corner, and Kevin de Bruyne stops it. He’s lifted his arms up.
“If you look at the reaction of the other players in the wall, their hands were down. It’s handball.”
Leicester’s disappointment was exacerbated when the visitors were awarded a spot kick when Ilkay Gundogan’s shot hit Dennis Praet on the arm. However, Sergio Aguero’s effort was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
“Unbelievable,” tweeted Gary Lineker. “How can you give that if you’ve not given the De Bruyne one? Justice done.”
‘VAR is an absolute joke’ – pundits and your reaction on #bbcfootball
On the Chelsea-Tottenham game:
Dion Dublin on BBC Radio 5 Live: “What are they seeing at Stockley Park that we’re not? Lo Celso’s nowhere near the ball, no intent to play the ball, and it’s with anger.”
Andy Reid on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s a definite sending off. It’s not a great tackle and you can see why Cesar Azpilicueta was in so much pain.”
Ruz: As a Spurs fan, I have to say Lo Celso should be sent off. That’s a simply awful ‘challenge’ and how VAR doesn’t see that as serious foul play is beyond me.
Rob: Expecting the usual criticism of VAR over the red card… VAR did its job; it captured an incident you could easily miss in real time. The problem is incompetence; there is an official at the other end somehow deciding that it’s not a red card. VAR or no VAR, the standard of refereeing is the problem.
Alex: I’m amazed Azpi isn’t leaving on a stretcher. Not so amazed none of us can understand the VAR decision. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous.
Greg: No way a red card. Lo Celso is putting his foot on the ground, as anyone would do. Chelsea player slides in, putting his leg where Lo Celso is expecting to meet turf. He had no other place to put his foot. #VAR got it right!
On the Burnley-Bournemouth game:
Steven Shaw: As it did with Chelsea v Man Utd, I think VAR is having a shocker with Burnley v Bournemouth today. Several controversial decisions already in this game, all in Burnley’s favour. If I was a Bournemouth fan, I’d be furious.
Matt Whitten: Oh stop this nonsense please, get rid of VAR, this is not football.
Jack Nimrod: That has got to be the beginning of the end of VAR. Ludicrous to take it so far back. Not even a clear handball. It totally deflated Bournemouth and ruined the game. Feel so sorry for the fans travelling from the South Coast on a horrible day to see that horror show.
On the Leicester-Man City game:
Matthew Khor: Another crazy VAR day – why wasn’t De Bruyne’s penalised if it is a pen against Praet? They’re exactly the same! Consistency please, people!
Ash Williams: Dennis Praet has less time to react than De Bruyne did. The lack of consistency is what’s ruining the game, not VAR itself.
Rich: I used to enjoy football but What utter rubbish VAR is. That’s two games I’ve now turned off in a row due to VAR – get the message?