Most Premier League weekends this season have had a number of big VAR calls, and the one just past was no different.
At this point in the season, refereeing decisions are more important than ever, having a huge impact on how things play out at both ends of the table in fights for the title, the top four and survival.
That only makes VAR calls more controversial, and there was controversy of such a nature across the weekend’s games.
Wolves were left fuming by the officiating in their 4-2 defeat to Leeds, while Tottenham incurred the wrath of Antonio Conte after a late penalty helped Southampton nick a point.
Here are the controversial decisions from the weekend analysed and what key figures had to say afterwards.
The weekend’s action kicked off with Nottingham Forest vs Newcastle on Friday night and so too did the weekend’s VAR discourse.
The away side won 2-1, grabbing a 93rd-minute winner, but their victory could have been far more comfortable if Elliot Anderson’s goal hadn’t been controversially ruled out just after the hour mark.
The 20-year-old thought he’d given his side the lead with his first Premier League goal when he headed in, but Paul Tierney was told to check on the VAR monitor for an offside and ultimately disallowed the goal.
Sean Longstaff was offside when Alexander Isak initially tried to cross the ball and a block from a Forest defender deflected it into his path for him to give it back to the striker who set up the goal.
Despite the fact Longstaff didn’t receive the ball directly from his team-mate, Tierney ruled the touch from the defender was a deflection of the initial pass and that the Newcastle man was therefore offside.
It’s a decision that many felt was the wrong one, with Alan Shearer calling it “pathetic” and Gary Neville saying it was “bizarre”, while Eddie Howe was left confused.
“I’m not sure what happened there, I’ve got no idea,” said the manager. “I was surprised to see the referee go over to the screen and make that decision and that call.”
The match between Wolves and Leeds was one of the most important of the season for both sides, very much being a relegation six-pointer.
After going behind early on, Wolves felt they should have had a penalty when Nelson Semedo was challenged by Junior Firpo inside the box, but referee Michael Salisbury waved play on and VAR upheld his decision, despite the fact replays showed the defender missed the ball and tripped his opponent.
Another questionable call was made towards the end of the first half when Craig Dawson was only shown a yellow for a challenge on Jack Harrison that many believed warranted a red card given his studs were up.
That decision only got more confusing when team-mate Jonny had his yellow upgraded to a red by VAR for a similar challenge in the closing stages of the match, and that wasn’t the last contentious moment.
Rodrigo ended all hopes of a Wolves comeback when he made it 4-2 in the 97th minute, but it initially looked like the goal would be disallowed when Salisbury was called to the monitor to look at a pull on the shirt of Adama Traore in the build-up. Somewhat surprisingly, he stuck with his original decision, feeling it wasn’t a foul.
Speaking after the match, Wolves boss Julien Lopetegui was furious with the calls that had been made.
“We have been very unlucky,” said the Spaniard. “The referee decisions…it’s incredible, I could make a book. Maybe when you have the same mistakes a lot of times against you, it’s not balanced. If you can’t change the fairness, maybe we have to do better. I’m not waiting for apologies, I want fairness.”
Southampton snatched a crucial point against Tottenham courtesy of a 93rd-minute penalty from James Ward-Prowse, but whether a penalty should have been given has been hotly debated.
Referee Simon Hooper felt Spurs midfielder Pape Matar Sarr fouled Ainsley Maitland-Niles when he attempted to clear the ball and caught the Southampton man, but it wasn’t clear-cut by any means.
Sarr clearly had his eyes on the ball and Maitland-Niles came from behind to steal it from him just before he cleared it, jumping into the midfielder’s foot more than anything.
The contact was also relatively minor and arguably not enough to be considered a foul, but VAR upheld the original call nonetheless, which Antonio Conte felt was the wrong call, even if he preferred to focus more on his team’s issues.
“For the penalty for me, it was not a penalty,” he said. “I stop, we close the situation. The worst situation is what was happening on the pitch. What has been happening in the last few months, what is happening in my second season.”