In this first Play of the Week in 2018 we look at two plays within five minutes. Both were subject to VAR Intervention and had contrasting outcomes for the same player, Maxime Chanot of New York City FC in their game at Sporting Kansas City.

In the first play we see NYC gain possession with the ball at the feet of Rodney Wallace. At this stage referee Mark Geiger, who is in a good position can see that in the vicinity, there are four City players to Sporting’s two.

You can see by Geiger’s body language that he reasonably expects this to turn into an attacking move to City. However, Wallace plays a poor pass to his team mate, defender Ben Sweat who cannot control the ball which then falls to Sporting’s Daniel Salloi. He bursts into the penalty area and is tackled by NYC defender Maxime Chanot.

This unexpected change to the pattern of play takes Geiger by surprise and he has to quickly react and chase the play. Geiger sees the challenge and awards a PK, which is understandable from the angle he had. To his credit he turns, produces a good burst of speed and has a clear and unobstructed view.

Unfortunately he has no time to create an angle for himself which is always crucial when referees make key decisions. As Geiger is looking from behind the players, he has a clue that the ball is moving to the right, so he knows that Chanot played the ball, but it could look as though he played his opponent first.

The decision being a PK would automatically be checked by VAR, Jon Freeman who correctly recommended a review. Geiger goes to the RRA (Referee Review Area) and subsequently decides to overturn the call, adheres to law and orders a dropped ball. If you look at the various angles you can see that it was a clean play on the ball, a fair challenge and the final decision was correct. Any contact on Salloi does not constitute an offence.

In the second play, less than five minutes later, NYCFC again have possession of the ball. Geiger takes evasive action and moves forward to move out of a potential passing lane and anticipate the expected next move. Again there is a poor pass this time, by City’s Yangel Herrera and a subsequent long ball by Sporting’s Roger Espinoza. No referee can possibly expect to move as quickly as the ball and this leaves Geiger with a lot of ground to make up.

The ball goes through to Gerso Fernandez who falls under pressure from NYC defender, Maxime Chanot and there is an appeal for a foul. Once again Geiger, to his credit accelerates well and ends up with a clear and unobstructed but not a close view. Geiger does not award a free-kick and allows play to continue. This is also understandable as any point of contact or force would have been very difficult to judge.

This play is checked and as there is a potential red card for DOGSO, (had the contact by Chanot been deemed a foul) a review is recommended. Geiger again goes to the RRA and following the review decides that there was a foul. Looking at the replays it could be an upper body or a lower body foul and as Chanot was coming from behind he had no realistic chance of playing the ball fairly, and consequently it meets all the criteria of DOGSO:

  • Distance between the defender and the goal – Yes. Edge of penalty area
  • General direction of the play – Yes Towards goal
  • Likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball – Yes Has possession
  • Location and number of defenders – Yes One defender too far away

In summary we have two key decisions in the space of five minutes that were both correct following Video Review. This demonstrates how valuable it is to referees and the game in general when operated properly.

Positioning is crucial to correct decision making and referees must always be prepared to “expect the unexpected”. On both of these plays an unexpected change of breakdown in play meant that Geiger had to quickly readjust and accelerate to make an attempt to be in the best position possible under difficult circumstances.

It highlights that viewing angle and distance are both important. As for Maxime Chanot, I wonder what he feels about Video Review having been the “recipient” and the “victim” of VR in the space of five minutes!

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