The latest matchups played out by Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United this afternoon highlighted a number of glaring issues with the Video Assistant Referee system.
Abraham at the double
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea travelled to Carrow Road for today’s early kick-off, with the Blues having headed into proceedings in search of their first win of the campaign.
And, in the end, on the back of two defeats and a draw from their first 3 outings under new boss Lampard, Chelsea finally got on the board with a victory.
Tammy Abraham proved the star of the show for the capital giants, notching a brace including the all-important winner.
21 – Tammy Abraham (21y 326d) is the third youngest player to score twice in a Premier League game for Chelsea, after Mark Nicholls v Coventry in January 1998 (20y 225d) and Eddie Newton v Tottenham in December 1992 (20y 358d). Bracing. #NORCHE
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 24, 2019
Mason Mount also got on the score-sheet for the 2nd week straight, with Todd Cantwell and the in-form Teemu Pukki having found the target for hosts Norwich.
United fall short
Manchester United, on the other hand, saw their explosive start to the campaign fall even further flat this afternoon.
After putting Chelsea to the sword by 4 goals to nil on opening day, the Red Devils were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Wolves on Monday night.
And the fortunes of Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s men turned even further versus Crystal Palace.
A largely-lacklustre first-half display from the hosts proved costly, as Jordan Ayew found the net against the run of play just past the half-hour mark.
The Eagles held firm until 3 minutes from time, before Daniel James bent a superb effort into the top corner of Guaita’s net.
Incredibly, however, in the end, it was Palace who grabbed an all-important winner.
A breakaway deep into injury-time saw Wilfried Zaha’s effort well blocked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, only for Patrick van Aanholt to drive home the rebound at David De Gea’s near post.
90 – Patrick van Aanholt has become only the second ever player to score a 90th minute winner vs Man Utd in the Premier League, after Thierry Henry with Arsenal in January 2007. Van Aanholt is the first to do so in a match at Old Trafford. Incredible. #MUNCRY pic.twitter.com/uITm70IWZV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 24, 2019
Chelsea hard done-by
Despite the contrasting fortunes of English football’s giants in today’s fixtures, though, there was one common grievance very much shared by the two sides.
This surrounded the use of VAR.
Chelsea’s meeting with Norwich featured a whole host of contentious decisions decided by the Video Assistant Referee system.
First off, the Blues were somehow denied a second-half penalty, when Cesar Azpilicueta was clearly taken out by Marco Stiepermann in the Norwich box.
The decision was checked on by VAR, but Stiepermann’s blatant kick on Azpilicueta’s knee was deemed as unworthy of a spot-kick.
Significantly, the Norwich midfielder had also already been booked.
This was soon followed by the hosts once again escaping being reduced to 10 men.
A challenge in the middle of the park involving Ben Godfrey and Mason Mount saw the former make no attempt to play the ball, before stamping down on the foot of the Chelsea youngster.
Fans and pundits agreed that Godfrey’s challenge was worthy of at least a booking, if not a straight red.
Bafflingly, though, VAR again opted to turn down appeals.
How many incorrect decisions do VAR want to give? Fixing fuck-all. Chelsea penalty? Zouma goal? Godfrey stamp?
— ᗩᗪᗩᗰ ᖴᗩᖇᗰEᖇ (@Adamfarms) August 24, 2019
Manchester United’s defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace, meanwhile, was also not without its flash-points.
Though referee Paul Tierney did get a couple of high-profile decisions absolutely correct, including awarding a penalty which was subsequently missed by Marcus Rashford, there were several more which escaped both the official and the VAR team.
The first of these saw Anthony Martial denied a spot-kick.
After the Frenchman turned brilliantly into the Palace box, Martial was hauled down from behind by Martin Kelly.
The United hitman did manage to get a shot away, but his effort was clearly compromised, with Kelly’s challenge having been clumsy at best.
Then, a short time later, Daniel James was handed a yellow card for diving.
The Red Devils’ goalscorer this afternoon darted inside towards the visitors’ goal late on, before going to ground under a challenge from James McArthur.
Paul Tierney immediately pulled out his yellow card, though, as James picked up a booking for simulation in his 2nd successive outing.
Replays, however, showcased the fact that McArthur had clearly connected with James, giving the Welshman every right to go down.
Whether such a decision can in fact be overturned under the current VAR rules remains unclear, but this should, without question, be the case.
VAR is a problem
VAR is, as was expected, still a work in progress, following its introduction to English football.
The point of the technology’s implementation, at its core, is obviously to eradicate refereeing errors.
Today’s action, however, showcased the fact that this simply isn’t happening.
As such, weeks and potentially months of VAR-based frustration look set to be forthcoming for fans and pundits alike, unless quick and meaningful adjustments are made to the system and its decision-making process.