How VAR affected United on opening weekend
Manchester United’s thumping victory over top-six rivals Chelsea and the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) undoubtedly dominated the headlines on the opening weekend of the 2019/20 Premier League season.
The system, which came under intense scrutiny at the 2018 World Cup and the women’s equivalent this summer, was in operation for the first time in the English top flight.
Although Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Norwich City in Friday night’s curtain raiser at Anfield passed without controversy, there were plenty of incidents in the nine subsequent games over the weekend.
We take a closer look at VAR’s impact during our 4-0 win over Chelsea and in the other matchday one fixtures...
FOOTBALL THE ONLY TALK AT OLD TRAFFORD
It was refreshing that the Reds’ emphatic 4-0 win over Frank Lampard’s Blues at Old Trafford on Sunday will be remembered for our clinical attacking display, rather than any controversial decisions.
Our opening goal from the penalty spot came after referee Anthony Taylor first played an excellent advantage when Andreas Pereira was pulled back by Jorginho, before penalising Kurt Zouma for catching Rashford in the box seconds later.
It was good to see the automatic VAR check by Stuart Attwell in the booth at London’s Stockley Park being completed within a matter of seconds, allowing Rashford to step up and calmly fire us into an 18th-minute lead.
A few minutes later, Rashford had the ball in the net again but was clearly offside, as flagged by assistant referee Adam Nunn, despite Paul Pogba appearing to be fouled in the build-up. A VAR check was still carried out, just in case.
As Anthony Martial, Rashford and substitute debutant Daniel James added to our tally in a memorable second half for the Reds, the VAR goal checks were completed efficiently while the players celebrated, without any prolonged delays.
Attwell and the assistant VAR Stephen Child then intervened to check a challenge from Tammy Abraham on Scott McTominay, which saw the Chelsea striker receive a yellow card, to see if it warranted a sending off. After a short delay, it was quickly confirmed that referee Taylor’s original decision would stand.
The final decisions were clearly communicated on the scoreboard and pitchside digital boards, as well as over the PA system, which worked well to keep the 73,620 fans inside Old Trafford informed.
HOW DID VAR DO IN GENERAL?
The Premier League has confirmed that around 70 incidents were checked over the course of the opening weekend, with only three decisions overturned.
The first two came in Saturday’s early kick-off, as Manchester City won 5-0 at West Ham United.
Already leading 2-0, Pep Guardiola’s side thought they had scored a third goal when Raheem Sterling teed up Gabriel Jesus to tap in. As the Brazil forward celebrated, fans inside the London Stadium were informed that a VAR review was in progress and the goal was eventually ruled out, with VAR David Coote adjudging that Sterling’s shoulder was offside in the build-up.
Later in the game, City striker Sergio Aguero had a penalty saved by Hammers keeper Lukasz Fabianski. As is the case with all goals, it was automatically checked by the VAR, who informed referee Mike Dean to order a re-take after determining that West Ham’s Declan Rice had encroached in the box while the kick was taken, while Fabianski had also moved too early off his line. Aguero stepped up again and made no mistake second time around, putting City 4-0 ahead.
Earlier on Sunday, Wolves thought they had netted a winner at Leicester when Leander Dendoncker finished from close range after his first header hit team-mate Willy Boly following a corner. However, the VAR review – which took one minute and 38 seconds in total – showed that the ball struck Boly’s arm from Dendoncker’s initial header and the goal was chalked off by on-field referee Andre Marriner, ensuring the game at the King Power Stadium finished 0-0.
The aforementioned decisions aside, VAR seemed to run smoothly and got the important decisions right – despite dividing opinion among fans and the media alike, as it played a part in the Premier League for the first time.
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