Liverpool were denied a late winner and had a confusing penalty awarded against them as VAR, or video assistant referee, shenanigans were at it again. Liverpool were playing the dead rubber in the group stage against Midtjylland. After the Reds had taken the lead early on thanks to a Mohammed Salah goal, a penalty was given for Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher’s foul on Anders Dreyer, even though the linesman had flagged for an offside before the challenge happened. The subsequent VAR check awarded the penalty while accepting the offside decision as well. Midtjylland were denied the chance to get all three points when Alexander Scholz’s finish was logged as No Goal for an offside—and it took quite long to get that decision in, leading to an addition of 8 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half. And that is where the third big VAR incident of the night happened, as Takumi Minamino’s dramatic late goal was chalked off for what VAR said was a handball from Sadio Mane in the buildup.
VAR, or Video Assistant Referee, is where technology is supposed to be used to give referees the precise video footage with better angles and views than what the on-field referee or the linesmen may have had, for certain decisions. These include Goal or No Goal due to various reasons including offside or handball, penalty calls and fouls, and direct red cards. Yet, some of the decisions that have been taken even with the use of VAR are far from what you would call clear and obvious. The technology was introduced to weed out the controversial decisions, the human errors and the referee misjudgments, has become the very reason for controversy in the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League and across European leagues this season.
The decision from VAR to awards the penalty to Midtjylland would have immediately reminded Liverpool fans of the Merseyside derby, where Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford escaped a red card for a lunge on Virgil Van Dijk, injuring him in the process. At that time, VAR had observed that since the offside flag had already been raised against Van Dijk, the challenge by Pickford was not reviewed. Needless to say, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left completely unimpressed by it all, particularly the time taken by each of the VAR interventions, to finally arrive at a decision.