The good, the bad, and the ugly: 10 memorable VAR moments in football

Memorable VAR moments in football || Credit: Imago

The good, the bad, and the ugly: 10 memorable VAR moments in football

Stephen Oladehinde 06:26 - 16.12.2023

The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in football has brought both precision and controversy to the game. It has been a game changer, altering the outcomes of crucial matches and stirring debates among fans, players, and officials.

The Good: Decisive and Fair

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur (2018-19 UCL): In a dramatic quarter-final, VAR played a crucial role in disallowing Raheem Sterling's late goal due to an offside detected earlier in the play. 

This decision was pivotal in Tottenham advancing on away goals, showcasing VAR's ability to make fair decisions in high-stakes situations​.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester United (2018-19 UCL): VAR awarded a last-minute penalty to Manchester United after a shot by Diogo Dalot struck PSG's Presnel Kimpembe's arm. 

The penalty, converted by Marcus Rashford, led to United's dramatic qualification for the quarter-finals, highlighting VAR's role in critical decision-making​.

Scotland vs Argentina (2019 Women’s World Cup): VAR's decision to retake a penalty after deeming Scotland's goalkeeper to be off her line changed the match's outcome. 

The retaken penalty led to a 3-3 draw, sending Scotland home, and raising questions about VAR's impact on the game's flow and fairness​​.

Argentina vs Brazil (Copa America semi-final 2019): Lionel Messi criticized VAR for not awarding a penalty for a foul on Sergio Aguero and for ignoring a shove on Nicolas Otamendi during a corner. This incident stirred debates about VAR's consistency and impartiality​.

Senegal vs Algeria (2019 AFCON final): A penalty decision for Senegal was overturned after a VAR review, which led to Algeria's victory. This decision sparked discussions on the subjectivity of handball rulings under VAR​.


The Ugly: Frustrating and Divisive

Brighton and Hove Albion vs West Ham United: A pivotal VAR decision disallowed Leandro Trossard's goal for Brighton due to an offside, changing the complexion of the game. While it ensured the accuracy of the goal decision, it also highlighted VAR's potential to deflate a team's momentum​.

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur (Champions League Quarter-final): Fernando Llorente's goal for Tottenham sparked controversy as it was closely scrutinized for a suspected handball. Despite the VAR review, the goal was allowed, leading to heated debates among fans and analysts​​.

Rennes vs Villarreal (UEFA Europa League): Rennes was denied a stoppage-time equalizer due to a VAR decision based on a free-kick law, highlighting the complexity and sometimes the inflexibility of the rules as applied by VAR​​.

Real Madrid vs Ajax (2018-19 UCL): In a match where Ajax eliminated Real Madrid, VAR played a significant role in reviewing Dusan Tadic’s goal due to the possibility of the ball going out of play. 

VAR || Credit: Imago
VAR || Credit: Imago

The goal was eventually allowed, but it underlined the technology's potential to interrupt the game's flow​​.

France vs Croatia (2018 World Cup Final): VAR awarded a penalty to France after a handball by Ivan Perisic, significantly influencing the match's outcome. This instance was a critical talking point about VAR's role in crucial decisions on football's biggest stage​​.

In conclusion, while VAR has brought a new level of accuracy to football, it has also introduced a layer of complexity and controversy. 

Each of these moments reflects the technology's profound impact on the sport, from ensuring fair play to sparking widespread debates about its application and effectiveness.