On Thursday night in the Europe League, UEFA’s new additional assistant referees (AARs) came into effect as two new offcials were posted at either end of the pitch with the responsibility of aiding the referee with decsions that happened in the box. Of specific importance, a central aim of the AARs is to be able to offer extra assistance to determine goal decisions or whether or not a ball crossed the line.
So how did round one of the experiment go? The results were mixed.
In the match between Heerenveen and Sporting Lisbon the AAR had to rule on where or not a Dutch strike had crossed the line after Sporting’s Marco Caneira had cleared a shot off the goalline with an acrobatic mid-air kick. TV replays showed that the ball failed to cross over the line, and happily the AAR in question opted to keep his flag down, and no goal was awarded.
Unfortunately, not all the AARs managed to make correct decisions, and in the CFR Cluj-FC Copenhagen match the Romanians were denied a goal as the officials failed to correctly spot that a shot which struck the underside of the bar had in fact managed to cross the line.
Clujâ€™s Ciprian Deac rifled off his effort from the edge of the box and, after striking the underside of the bar, the ball initially bounced over the line before spinning out of the goal where the Danish keeper was able to collect the loose ball. Perhaps though the decisive factor in that incident was the distinct lack of protest from the home side, as one can speculate that if the Cluj players had been collectively up in arms over the call, the officials would have felt under greater pressure to make the goal call. As it was, they seemed to erred on the side of caution by avoiding to make the tough call.
In a third a final incident during the Sparta Prague-PSV contest the AAR in question again managed to correctly spot that a ball did not cross the line after a deflected Czech cross was headed onto the inside of the far post by an all-too-fortunate PSV defender. With the ball having not crossed the line, no goal was awarded.
The bottom line connecting all three situations appears to have been the reluctance of the AARs to boldly call for a goal to stand in questionable situations, and it remains to be seen whether the AARs will be able to make these tough calls in the future.
Video evidence of the three goalline decisions can be seen here.