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.