If the Video Assistant Referee, VAR, was meant to remove most of the controversy and unhappiness from the football world it is failing miserably. If anything, fans are far more confused after the latest VAR decision came to haunt Manchester City in the English Premier League.
With the score tied at 2-2 with top-four rivals, Tottenham Hotspur and the game already in stoppage time, Gabriel Jesus scored what he thought was the winning goal for the4 Citizens. Ruling the goal out for an accidental handball seems a difficult decision to give but is correct under the new FIFA rules introduced over the summer.
The question for most of us is, has VAR taken away some of the magic and mystery of the beautiful game. At the end of the game, Guardiola shook hands with referee Michael Oliver and his assistants while accusing Oliver of not being able to look at him. Taking to Twitter to voice his frustrations, midfielder Ikay Gundogan did not complain about the decision of Oliver and the VAR team but took his frustration out on the new rules introduced by FIFA. An unintentional handball in the penalty area cannot lead to a goal but a defender can block a goal with their arm in an unintentional way without any punishment.
Of course, the same two teams have a history with VAR as Man City lost their Champion’s League quarter-final to the same opponents last season. For a coach who thrives on knowing every aspect of his own team and that of the opposition, Guardiola is now facing a struggle to understand how a victory can be taken away by a referee watching a video screen. Manchester City coach Guardiola seemed barely able to believe the victory had been taken away in an almost identical way to that of last season against the same opposition when City had dominated the game in every statistic apart from goals.
TV reporters stated hundreds of fans had stormed out of the Etihad and the question now becomes, is VAR really helping the game as a whole? In Germany, the Bundesliga has already released a statement claiming their VAR staff will not halt the game if goalkeepers encroach on a penalty-taker in a clear change to the rules enforced at the women’s World Cup and in the English Premier League.
German international Gundogan has a point in his Tweet that defenders are being given an advantage over forwards because of the accidental handball rule. However, Guardiola takes little comfort from the performance as he seemed to feel this was a case of two points lost to a close rival. The quest for excellence by the Basque coach is unrivaled and continues to showcase how impressive the work he has completed at Manchester City has been compared to the unhappy end to his tenure at Bayern Munich.
Guardiola remains the gold standard of football coaching but does not seem to have the luckiest time when it comes to VAR at Man City.