For the first time in what has been an extraordinary season for his Manchester City side, I felt sorry for Pep Guardiola on Tuesday night as they saw one leg of a possible treble extinguished before his helpless eyes with a third successive defeat to Liverpool.

And whether you consider yourself to be in his camp, or in Liverpool’s, or indeed you’re a neutral like I am, let me tell you why I think this was the moment of no return when it comes to our adoption of the Video Assistant Referee.

Now I know VAR won’t even be used in the Champions League next season, let alone this, but for me this particular Additional Assistant finally proved their lack of use just when the referee, Senor Lahoz, needed him most, so the ultimate verdict simply has to be that the Leroy Sane goal that was disallowed for offside in the first half would have been allowed and a massive injustice avoided had better technology only been available.

These guys have been standing behind the goal wielding their light sabres, or whatever they are, in European competitions since 2012, and whatever we may have made of their presence until now, surely this was the time to step up and signal that the keeper has punched the ball, it has come back off James Milner and that has in turn played Sane onside.

I have been there for epic comebacks and I have been there for incidents such as the so-called ghost goal at Anfield, where Garcia’s effort was given and, as a co-commentator, I was left frantically looking between pitch and monitor, waiting for someone screaming from the production truck to help us clarify the situation for everybody watching at home.

I was not there this time, but I could not help noticing that, on the night, such clarification was slow in coming, and it took former ref Chris Foy and Frank Lampard on BT a while to conclude what Guardiola had spotted, and what I myself spotted with the benefit of replays, straight away.

I am not saying that Liverpool would necessarily not have responded, having already conceded that early Gabriel Jesus goal, and I am not even blaming the AR himself if he happened to miss it, it’s just that the only question that needed answering, who did it hit, seemed to go unanswered.

This incident came at such a critical time, too, and the resulting momentum, I believe, could literally have changed everything for both sides, from a psychological point of view as much as anything else. It came on the back of at least one other decision Guardiola had to swallow at the weekend, and once again, it was a potentially decisive error from a team of officials that has cost him.

Technology is now a fact of life in elite sport, and while I can see the argument the purists make about tampering with the human element beyond an acceptable point, in general I think it is surely time for us to accept that the stakes and the investments are simply too high for us not to.

And, as for the AAR, for me this finally proved there is not even any point in them being there.

1 COMMENT

  1. City have been so unlucky the last three matches with referees making mistakes. To have one perfectly legitimate goal in the back of the net ruled out due a wrong offside call is unfortunate. To have TWO? In the same tie of such magnitude? No wonder Pep was upset.

    Sane’s wrongly disallowed goal at Anfield for offside late in the game would have made it 3-1 and given them a vital away goal – not forgetting Salah being marginally offside for Liverpool’s first goal as well. Then, almost unbelievably, the same happens again in the second leg. If referees had done their job properly City would have most likely have been 2-0 up and 3-3 on aggregate going into half time with City going through as it stood thanks to the away goal.

    Bad refereeing has robbed football of an epic second half of football and certainly City. Sad but true. Football is living in the stone age. I was vehemently against VAR – but after this tie I have decided it is a necessity, particularly for offside decisions where I feel the system will be priceless in eradicating misunderstandings and tight calls.

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