Thursday’s Premier League fixtures were all closely contested matches. However, VAR had a say in all 3 as the controversial technology denied a goal in each game – with some of the decisions more heart-breaking than others.
West Brom 0 – Everton 1
One of the 6pm kick-offs from Thursday’s Premier League action saw Everton defeat West Brom 1 goal to nil thanks to a Richarlison header – his fourth consecutive game in which he has contributed with a goal.
Everton scored the only goal of this Premier League game against West Brom in the 65th minute. After Gylfi Sigurdsson’s original corner from the left side was cleared back to him, the Everton substitute returned the ball back into the box, where it found a leaping Richarlison.
The Brazilian forward beat West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone to the ball and headed the ball into the back of the net from 6-yards out.
West Brom thought they had scored a last-minute equaliser in the 91st minute, but the linesman flagged for offside straight away – which VAR later confirmed that goal scorer Mbaye Diagne’s left foot had just strayed offside when the cross was delivered to him.
Sigurdsson made the difference
Everton were desperate for a creative spark throughout this Premier League match against West Brom’s resilient defending.
Luckily for The Toffees, Carlo Ancelotti’s introduction of Sigurdsson led to the Icelandic midfielder getting the assist for Richarlison’s goal less than a minute after coming on.
Sky Sports’ Andy Hinchcliffe said “What a substitution by Carlo Ancelotti, sending on Sigurdsson. That’s what Everton have been crying out for: quality delivery into the box.”
This assist makes it 2 for Sigurdsson in as many games and makes it 3 in total for this Premier League campaign. Whilst the stats aren’t the most breath-taking, his influence in Everton’s midfield is evident, as that assist helped Everton overtake bitter rivals Liverpool, moving them into 5th place.
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 5, 2021
Fulham 0 – Tottenham Hotspur 1
It was a tale of two halves for José Mourinho’s Tottenham side, as their dominant display in the first half – in which they scored the only goal of the game – saw them edge out a Fulham side that were all over them in the second half.
Tottenham’s only goal of the game in this Premier League fixture came in the 19th minute. Heung-Min Son’s pass to Dele Alli from the left side of Fulham’s box was flicked onwards by the England international.
However, and unfortunately for Fulham in a cruel game for them, the ball deflected off defender Tosin Adarabioyo into his own net from inside the 6-yard box.
Fulham then had a goal controversially disallowed in the 62nd minute after VAR intervened.
Davinson Sánchez’s attempted clearance from inside the Spurs box was deflected off Mario Lemina, where it fell to Josh Maja. The striker then cut in on his left foot and buried it into the bottom right corner.
VAR then told referee David Coote to check the monitor as when the ball deflected off Lemina, it came off his arm. Coote eventually disallowed the goal – despite Lemina’s arm being in his silhouette and having the ball booted at him from 2 metres away.
Different game, same old VAR controversy
When you see the ‘handball’ that denied Fulham a crucial, and deserved, point in their bid for Premier League survival, you’ll shake your head in disbelief.
Lemina’s arm is literally down the side of his body and the ball is smashed against him from 2 metres away. Where else is he supposed to put his arm, inside his shirt?
Matt Law from The Telegraph described the decision as “ridiculous” and added “nobody in their right mind would have denied Josh Maja an equaliser”.
As much as I support the use of VAR when it’s used correctly, this decision, as well as many others this season, have been utterly laughable.
More consistency is needed. Nobody knows what’s handball and what isn’t this season – and don’t get me started on ‘offside’ calls in which the attacker’s elbow or rear-end is 1mm offside. Oh wait…
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) March 4, 2021
Liverpool 0 – Chelsea 1
Thomas Tuchel stretched his unbeaten run as Chelsea’s manager to 10 games in all competitions as his side – who deserved the 3 points – defeated Liverpool at Anfield 1-0. The defeat for Liverpool marked their 5th consecutive home defeat in the Premier League.
The only goal of this fixture between these two Premier League giants came in the 42nd minute.
Jorginho’s long-range pass from inside his own half found Mason Mount on the left wing, who cut inside into the box, where he dribbled past Fabinho, before smashing it into the bottom right corner.
Before this, VAR had ruled out a Timo Werner goal in the 26th minute when it deemed Werner millimetres offside when he made his run in-behind Liverpool’s high defensive line.
Then, in the 49th minute, VAR denied Liverpool a penalty, after Roberto Firmino’s attempted cross from inside the box was blocked by an outstretched N’Golo Kanté arm.
A game separated by fine margins… maybe too fine
How Kanté’s handball wasn’t given as handball, yet Lemina’s in the Fulham vs Tottenham game was, I’ll never know. Similar distance, yet Kanté’s arm was outstretched and Lemina’s arm wasn’t. Go figure.
In his post-match interview with the BBC, a deflated Jürgen Klopp agreed that fine margins in the decisive moments cost his team the game. “It’s annoying to talk about the same things again and again” he added, clearly relating to the VAR incident that denied his side a penalty.
As mentioned previously, and I’m trying not to repeat myself here, more consistency is needed from VAR. Supposed changes to the rules of what is and what isn’t handball changed during this season, yet nobody is really clear on what those rules are.
Why do they differentiate between if an attacker handballs it in the penalty area compared to when a defender handballs it in the penalty area?
Furthermore, how is a player being offside by mere millimetres offside? Are those millimetres truly giving the attacking player that much of an advantage against the defenders? Let’s just hope something is done about it for next season.
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🗣️ "To take your top goalscorer off is a strange one…"
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) March 4, 2021