As is quickly becoming the norm in the Premier League, we have seen yet more VAR controversy. The new technology continues to be one of the main talking points relating to top-flight football every week and that was no different on Sunday in the Manchester derby. Sergio Aguero’s second-half equaliser was ruled on the pitch, however, replays showed that the Argentine was in line, with a shoulder or armpit the debatable difference. In ‘honour’ of another VAR-centric incident in the Premier League, we have decided to take a look back at some of VAR’s most controversial moments of the season so far…
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Sterling's tight offside call
Manchester City breezed past West Ham on the opening day of the season, however, Pep Guardiola’s side didn’t have it all their own way. It was the first time VAR ruled out a goal for the tightest of offside margins, with Raheem Sterling adjudged to be offside before squaring the ball to Gabriel Jesus. Many still don’t think the Englishman was off, but the goal was overturned.
Wolves have opening day win chalked off
Leander Dendoncker’s opening weekend winner for Wolves against Leicester was the first effort to be ruled out under the new handball laws. Willy Boly unintentionally handled the ball as it made its way through to Dendoncker, and after a lengthy delay, the goal was ruled out.
Rodri's controversial penalty call
Manchester City’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham in August was full of controversy. Early on in the encounter, City midfielder Rodri was involved in a tussle in the box with Spurs winger Erik Lamela, which appeared to be a clear penalty. Referee Michael Oliver waved away City’s protests for a spot-kick, with VAR backing Oliver’s call for not making a clear and obvious error.
Tottenham's saviour at the Etihad
Months on from their dramatic Champions League trip to Manchester, Tottenham had VAR to thank once again in stoppage time. Gabriel Jesus thought he won it late on, however, after lengthy delays, the goal was ruled out after officials spotted the ball striking Aymeric Laporte’s arm on the way through.
VAR bites Spurs back eight days later
Eight days after Tottenham rode their luck against the champions, they were again at the heart of a controversial VAR call. Mauricio Pochettino’s side fell to a shock home defeat against Newcastle but were left raging after both Mike Dean and VAR official Anthony Taylor refused to overrule a penalty claim involving Harry Kane. The England captain appeared to be dragged to the ground by Jamaal Lascelles, however, the call wasn’t a ‘clear and obvious error’.
Newcastle get away with one against Watford
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle were again on the right side of some VAR fortune after picking up their first home point of the season against Watford thanks to a first-half equaliser from Fabian Schar. The defender’s effort should have been ruled out despite VAR checking the goal, with Isaac Hayden handling the ball in the build-up to which was missed by VAR officials.
Tielemans avoids red against Bournemouth
Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans avoided an early shower against Bournemouth in August and was at the heart of a heated debate following the match. The Belgian appeared to go over the ball, crashing into Callum Wilson’s leg, however, the tackle went unpunished by both the referee and VAR. Tielemans went on to score shortly before half time to rub salt into the Cherries’ wound.
Villa have late Palace equaliser cruelly ruled out
Henri Lansbury sent the travelling Aston Villa fans into a frenzy when he thought he rescued Dean Smith’s side a point deep into injury time against Crystal Palace. However, referee Kevin Friend already blew the whistle before the ball ended up in the back of the net to wrongly book Jack Grealish for a dive. As a result of Friend’s quick call, VAR couldn’t overrule the controversial decision.
Bournemouth and Villa's similar calls lead to different results
Bournemouth and Aston Villa has different outcomes in similar circumstances at the end of September which led tom more controversy surrounding VAR. Joshua King’s equaliser against West Ham was initially ruled out for offside before being overturned, however, minutes later up in the Midlands, Villa had a similar effort disallowed with players in offside positions penalised.
Liverpool's late penalty
Liverpool were close to dropping their first points of the season against Leicester last weekend before Sadio Mane won a controversial late penalty which James Milner coolly converted. Marc Albrighton was the man who fouled the Reds star, who chose to go to ground at Anfield which then caused a major debate. The call went to VAR, who eventually backed Chris Kavanagh’s decision to award the spot-kick.
Wood's goal controversially ruled out
With Leicester City leading 2-1 against Burnley, the Clarets thought they had scored an equaliser thanks to a strike from Chris Wood eight minutes from time. However, his ‘goal’ was controversially ruled out by the VAR, which ruled the New Zealand international had tripped Jonny Evans before the ball entered the net.
Double VAR issue at Spurs
VAR was the main talking point in yet another Premier League game as Tottenham scored a late goal to salvage a home draw against Watford. With Spurs desperately seeking an equaliser, Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster made a mess of an 86th-minute cross that allowed Dele Alli to control the ball with his shoulder before turning it into the net. VAR reviewed the goal and decided it was correctly awarded by the onfield referee, however, due to a technical issue, the big screen inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium indicated that the decision was ‘no goal’. However, the goal did eventually stand. This came on the back of VAR somehow not giving a penalty for what seemed like an absolute stonewall foul as Jan Vertonghen’s brought down Gerard Deulofeu.
Arsenal denied against Palace
Arsenal were denied of all three points late on against Crystal Palace recently when Sokratis thought he scored the winner, only for it to be overturned for a foul in the build-up to the goal. Many felt the Gunners were hard done by.
Deulofeu's soft penalty
Gerard Deulofeu won a controversial penalty in the last few minutes of Watford’s defeat to Chelsea on Saturday night. Contact looked minimal after a tackle from Jorginho, but Anthony Taylor’s original decision of no penalty was overturned.
Pochettino slams Son's red card
Mauricio Pochettino has hit out at VAR’s decision to send off Son Heung-min after his tackle on Andre Gomes. The Tottenham star was originally handed a yellow card, only for that to be upgraded to a red after seeing the damage of the injury. However, replays show that Gomes suffered the damage as a result of his landing, not the tackle itself.
Roberto Firmino looked to have brought Liverpool level against Aston Villa earlier this month, however, following several attempts, VAR finally disallowed the goal, with the Brazilian’s armpit marginally offside. The Reds eventually went on to win 2-1 at Villa Park.
Sterling has another ruled out
Raheem Sterling and VAR aren’t getting along. The Englishman had another effort chalked off in the 2-1 win over Chelsea. Sterling looked like he was onside, however, the technology said differently.
Virgil van Dijk on Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Everton were outraged at the decision not to award a foul on Dominic Calvert-Lewin during the recent Merseyside Derby after Virgil van Dijk brought the striker down inside the box. The decision was not even reviewed by VAR at all.
Jonjo Shelvey ignores the offside flag
Jonjo Shelvey’s goal against Sheffield United caused quite the stir. The midfielder essentially walked the ball into the net after the Sheffield United defenders stopped playing following the linesman’s decision to raise his flag for offside. Shelvey, who ran from behind Andy Carroll, who had been judged to be offside, slotted the ball home. When VAR checked the decision, Shelvey was deemed to have been onside and even though the Blades’ players stopped when they saw the flag, the goal stood and helped to earn Newcastle a much-needed win.
Did Calvert-Lewin foul De Gea?
Manchester United’s players were furious when VAR rules that Dominic Calvert-Lewin had not fouled David De Gea in the build up to Everton’s goal in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. The Spanish goalkeeper ended up missing the ball from a cross and it his Victor Lindelof and bounced into the goal. De Gea said he was founded but the referee and the VAR, didn’t agree.
Man City penalty debacle against Wolves
It started with Riyad Mahrez being challenged Wolves defender Leander Dendoncker. The incident was initially ignored by Martin Atkinson, before VAR awarded a pen.
Sterling stepped up, but his penalty was saved by Rui Patricio.
However, Conor Coady was judged to have encroached on the penalty, leading to another penalty being awarded.
It was saved again, but Sterling this time tapped home the rebound, leading to missiles being thrown on the pitch by Wolves fans.
Zaha fractionally offside for Palace
Wilfried Zaha was seen to be fractionally offside for Crystal Palace against Southampton, denying them an opening goal against the Saints after Max Meyer had seemingly put the Eagles ahead.
Brighton's second ruled out for a marginal offside
Brighton thought they had a second goal after Dan Burn headed the ball in the back of the net.
However, it was brought back for offside, with just an inch of the player’s shoulder seemingly making the play an illegal one.
Pukki's goal chalked off despite looking level
Teemu Pukki thought he’d put Norwich 2-0 up against Tottenham but his goal was ruled out after a VAR check. Most angles seemed to suggest that the Finland international was onside but the VAR lines suggested he might have been millimetres offside and the goal was chalked off.
Chris Kavanagh gets in the way
Sheffield United were already annoyed at VAR for ruling out Lys Mousset’s goal against Man City for a tight offside call but they were even ore annoyed at City’s opening goal. Referee Chris Kavanagh impeded John Fleck as he prepared to take possession and City went on to reclaim the ball and score. Sheff United think the game should have been halted there and then.
Neto's Anfield goal disallowed
During his side’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, what seemed like a legitimate goal from Wolves’ Pedro Neto was ruled out for the most slender offside call in the build-up to his strike, with not a single Liverpool player even appealing for the decision.
Villa hurt by a heel
Jack Grealish had a goal ruled out in his side’s game against Burnley at Turf Moor because the heel of striker Wesley was deemed to be offside by the absolute tiniest of margins in the build-up. Not one player on the pitch even appeared to think Wesley was offside but the VAR lines showed his heel was offside by millimetres and the goal was ruled out. Thankfully for Villa, it didn’t cost them too much as they went on to earn a comfortable victory.
The Mahrez/Digne Debacle
VAR was a talking point after Man City’s 2-1 win over Everton on New Year’s Day. In a series of strange events, the linesman flagged Riyhad Mahrez offside, even though it was a very close decision that he should have let go. Mahrez then controlled the ball, possibly with his arm, before going into the penalty area where it looked like he was fouled by Lucas Digne. VAR correctly identified that Mahrez was onside and then checked for the possible handball. It did look like a handball on the replay but, for some reason, the VAR went on to check for the penalty before going back and awarding the handball, which made absolutely no sense and left observers scratching their heads. To add even more confusion, VAR is not allowed to check every offside decision, it can only check them when they lead directly to goals or penalties. Therefore play actually resumed with an Everton free-Kock from the point of the original, incorrect offside decision.
When’s a handball not a handball?
In truth, West Ham were rubbish against Sheffield United and didn’t deserve a point but they thought they’d got one when Robert Snodgrass scored a late equaliser. However, a combination of the new handball rule and VAR saw that goal disallowed. In the build-up to the goal, the ball was absolutely hammered at Declan Rice’s arm and he could do nothing about it. Still, because VAR spotted that it had hit his arm, the goal was disallowed.
No Red for Robertson
Tottenham manager Hose Mourinho, and plenty of his club’s supporters, were left fuming when Andrew Robertson wasn’t sent off by the VAR official for a challenge on Japhet Tanganga. Robertson did get the ball first but his follow through saw him catch the debutant flush on the shin with his studs.
Pepe denied penalty
Mikel Arteta was furious with the technology after the Gunners had a penalty shout waved away against Sheffield United. Winning by a single goal, club-record signing Nicolas Pepe looked to have been hacked down inside the area, however, Mike Dean, officiating his 500th top flight game, missed the incident and it wasn’t overruled by VAR. The Blades went on to equalise and take a point from the Emirates.
Stones gets away with one on Zaha
Manchester City defender John Stones seemingly brought down Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha at the Etihad, however, after no foul was given, VAR also refused to overrule Graham Scott’s initial decision. Zaha would get his revenge though when he took on Stones to cross for Fernandinho’s injury time own goal to give the Eagles a point.
De Gea gets away with one at Anfield?
Liverpool ended up beating Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield, but it could’ve been more if it wasn’t for VAR. Roberto Firmino’s first-half effort was overturned after Virgil van Dijk was adjudged to have fouled David de Gea in the build-up. It appeared to be a rather soft free-kick, and it had many talking about the technology once again.
West Ham furious as Brighton's equaliser stands
West Ham’s players and fans were furious as Glenn Murray’s equaliser in their 3-3 draw with Brighton was awarded by VAR. Michael Oliver initially gave a handball against the striker, but despite it seeming like the video footage was inconclusive at best, VAR overruled the referee and allowed the goal to stand.
Two penalties missed at Anfield?
Both Liverpool and Southampton fans were fuming with the technology in the Reds’ 4-0 win at Anfield. Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino looked to have been pulled to the ground by Shane Long in the first half, whilst replays showed that Danny Ings was caught by Fabinho in the second prior to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s opener for Jurgen Klopp’s leaders.
Spurs and City at it again
Tottenham and Manchester City tend to bring VAR controversy whenever they meet, and that was no different in Spurs’ 2-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s side. Raheem Sterling could’ve been sent off in the first half for a challenge on Dele Alli, while Mike Dean’s initial no penalty decision was overturned. Ilkay Gundogan missed the penalty with Sterling then having an immediate second spot-kick claim turned down by the technology. It was all happening, with some believing the VAR made numerous wrong calls in north London.
No goal for Boly
Wolves and Leicester played out an entertaining stalemate at Molineux, with the key phase of play coming just before the interval. Willy Boly looked to have opened the scoring for the hosts after a short corner routine, however, his close-range header was ruled out with Pedro Neto judged to be offside in the build-up.
VAR admits to an error
When Chelsea beat Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, there was a lot of focus on VAR, and again, that attention came from another huge controversy. In the second half of the match, Spurs’ Giovani Lo Celso somehow avoided getting a red card after his horror tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta, with neither the on-field referee or the VAR official choosing to send him off. A few minutes later, Stockley Park told the media outlets covering the game that it should have been a sending off as the challenge did “tick the boxes” of being a red card.
De Bruyne's handball
Leicester City fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in February in another VAR dominated game. The Foxes felt that they should have been awarded a penalty when James Maddison’s free-kick was blocked by Kevin De Bruyne’s arms, but the referee and VAR both decided against awarding a spot-kick.
Calvert-Lewin's late deflected strike
Everton and Manchester United played out a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park at the beginning of March. The Toffees thought they won it late on when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s deflected strike ended up in the back of the net. However, the technology stepped in to rule out the goal with Gylfi Sigurdsson obstructing David de Gea’s view. It certainly split opinion.