NOT HAPPY: Wolves manager Nuno Santo has words with the fourth official. AFP Photo
Once again the spotlight was well and truly focused on VAR, and in particular, Liverpool’s match with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday evening.
My mate Russ Beale put it best when he wrote on Facebook after the match.
“VAR is like your wife or girlfriend. There is absolutely no point whatsoever arguing, because they are always right.”
And that’s the issue here that many in the game are not quite getting their heads around. VAR is always right.
Wolves’ manager, Nuno Herlander Simões Espírito Santo, to use his full name, was incandescent with rage in the final minutes of the first half at Anfield.
Pre-VAR, his side would have left the pitch at half-time a goal to the good, but, because of VAR they found themselves one down.
Three minutes before half-time, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane scored a neat volley to put the home side one up. Referee Anthony Taylor had other ideas, and immediately blew the whistle signalling the ball had been handled by Adam Lallana in the build-up to the goal.
So no goal, right? Wrong.
This is the age of VAR and after the game was halted for what seemed like an eternity, the goal was given because, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it was easy to check if Lallana had handled the ball, and clear to see he hadn’t – it had hit his shoulder.
Just a few minutes after the goal was given, Wolves thought they had equalised when Pedro Neto slotted from the edge of the box.
He celebrated wildly, thinking he had scored his first ever Premier League goal. Again the referee signalled a goal, and again VAR had other ideas.
This time the virtual assistant referee had spotted an earlier offside in the build-up, and boy was it close.
But, again, VAR was correct. The correct decision was made, although for Wanderers’ manager Santo, and the thousands who had made the journey from the Midlands to Liverpool for the match, they were a little aggrieved to say the least.
So where do we draw the line here? Are correct decisions the wrong decisions? Clearly not.
But as another friend, a Liverpool fan I hasten to add, wrote on Facebook:
“Yes, the decisions may have been correct, but VAR is like a super-powered Dyson, completely sucking the life out of football.”
He’s right, it is.
But there’s still no getting away from the fact that, rather like a discussion with your better half over an issue, no matter what, the wife is right and arguments are a pointless exercise.
The other thing that needs considering is that we have already opened the VAR door and there is no closing it at all. Like it or lump it, VAR is here to stay.
So, as we enter a new year, a new decade even, we have to accept that from now on, all controversial decisions, those that hang in the balance or those when one pair of eyes just isn’t enough, will be checked.
And yes, the goal scorer may well be offside by a toenail, armpit, or the hair on his goatee, but offside they are. So deal with it.
That said, improvements are needed, the system needs to be tweaked. Managers, referees and representatives of fans need to work out what exactly is needed for the system to evolve.
But until that happens and new rules are written, there’s no getting away from the fact that like arguing with your wife, arguing about VAR is as pointless as an ashtray on a motorbike. VNS