Ref Review: Verdict on VAR after historic Premier League weekend

VAR may now be in use but there were still contentious decisions to deal with at Liverpool, West Ham and Leicester this weekend, and we discuss them in Ref Review.


Refereeing decisions are regularly the source of debate among fans, pundits, players and managers so this season TEAMtalk’s ‘Ref Review’ panel will be passing judgement on every red card (or avoidance of one), every penalty  (or avoidance of one) and any other major incident in each Premier League match.

We may be in the day and age of goalline technology and now VAR but football remains littered with controversies, so let’s take a look at some from the opening weekend of Premier League action…


Liverpool penalty appeal v Norwich

Grant Hanley TEAMtalk

A truly historic night at Anfield. Not just the first game of the 2019/20 season but also the first time in the competition’s history that VAR was used. In total there were eight checks at VAR HQ at Stockley Park.

The main drama though in terms of technology happened after half-time when the game was delayed for several minutes due to one of the assistant referees’ headsets picking up interference.

On the pitch most of the big calls were uncontested. Roberto Firmino was fouled late on by Grant Hanley (who had a shocking night) and the Anfield fans bayed for a penalty. However a quick check confirmed Hanley’s challenge was just outside the penalty area.

Verdict: Correct decision


Manchester City penalty appeal v West Ham

First penalty check of the new VAR season in England’s top flight and it came early on at the London Stadium. Sebastien Haller’s touch was classy as he laid it off to Manuel Lanzini on the right. The Argentine initially looked like he’d been thwarted by Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Lanzini though managed to win the ball back a few moments later, on the edge of the City box, and he hit the deck under apparent contact from new Citizen Rodri in the area. Ref Michael Dean had a quick VAR check before flamboyantly waving away appeals for a penalty.

Verdict: Correct decision


Manchester City disallowed goal v West Ham

Raheem Sterling TEAMtalk

The story of the game though was VAR overturning a quite sublime ‘goal’ from Gabriel Jesus. David Silva slipped a clever ball in to Raheem Sterling. The England man unselfishly squared it to Jesus who couldn’t miss. It was classic City. However as the players piled in to celebrate VAR then had a peep with their 3D offside line, and it showed Sterling to be off by the tightest of margins (literally millimetres) when played through by Silva. The decision brought about the biggest cheer of the game! To be honest it didn’t look ‘clear and obvious’ to us but I guess we better get used to it.

Verdict: Correct decision


Manchester retaken penalty v West Ham

Riyad Mahrez was felled in the box and the visitors got themselves a penalty. No arguments there. However the system then awarded the visitors a penalty retake after Sergio Aguero’s tame initial effort was saved by Lukas Fabianski. Declan Rice was deemed to have encroached into the area. Aguero then converted the second spot kick, much to the jubilation of anyone who has him in their Fantasy Premier League team.

Verdict: Correct decision


Watford penalty appeal v Brighton

Watford VAR TEAMtalk

The home fans were demanding a penalty here as Roberto Pereyra’s free kick was blocked in the wall by the arm of the evergreen Glenn Murray, but referee Craig Pawson waved away appeals. The ball clearly hit Murray’s arm, but he got away with it as his arm as it was not away from his body or above his head. VAR then made a very quick check before clearing the play to continue.

Verdict: Correct decision


Wolves disallowed goal v Leicester City

More VAR controversy at the King Power as Wolves had what would have proved the winner chalked off after a near two minute wait on Sunday. Joao Moutinho’s right-wing corner was headed goalwards by Leander Dendoncker and hit the arm of Wolves’ Willy Boly at close range before Dendoncker slammed the rebound past Kasper Schmeichel from eight yards out. The rules state this season that any goal scored or created with the use of the hand or arm will be disallowed.

Verdict: Correct decision


Manchester United penalty v Chelsea

Kurt Zouma TEAMtalk

Awful, clumsy tackle in the box by Kurt Zouma on Marcus Rashford. There was a quick VAR check but it was all academic. We’ve got to say it was fantastic refereeing by Anthony Taylor too. He was ready to blow for a foul when Andreas Pereira was fouled in the build-up to the penalty but waited. The extra half second was enough for Zouma to foul Rashford.

Verdict: Correct decision


Weekend Verdict:

There’s no doubt that technology is obviously helpful but does it help the game if we are sacrificing the spectacle and experience of a football match in order to use it? The problem at the minute is that paying fans in the stadium are completely clueless regarding as to what is going on. And in some cases (see Wolves disallowed goal), reviews are taking a couple of minutes. In cricket, fans at least know what is being reviewed.

The use of VAR means nearly all of the big calls were correct but our gut feeling is that getting every decision spot on may not be worth altering the sport we love forever. The genie, it seems, is out of the bottle.