The Video Assistant Referee has again overshadowed the action from the opening round of the A-League season, with contentious decisions proving decisive in two matches.
Less than 24 hours after the controversy of a Bruno Fornaroli penalty being awarded by VAR in the Melbourne derby won 2-1 by City, Wellington Phoenix was the beneficiary of two decisions made upon review by referee Daniel Elder in its 2-1 win against Newcastle Jets on Sunday.
A late penalty converted by Roy Krishna was the major source of confusion as the VAR review occurred some time after the off-the-ball foul by Kaine Sheppard on fellow substitute Mitch Nichols.
The incident was later clarified by officials, but it did little to appease Jets coach Ernie Merrick.
Three games into the A-League season:
Four late goals
Five debut goals
Three controversial VAR decisions
Two penalty saves
Two penalty rebounds scored
One Mark Bosnich rant
— bet365_aus (@bet365_aus) October 21, 2018
“I would think the problem’s not the VAR, it’s the application of the VAR,” Merrick said.
The A-League’s longest-standing coach suggested only the referee, not a VAR official, should decide if an incident is worth referring.
He also said there should be a time limit employed, so referees can’t go several minutes back for a review, as happened with Nichols.
“Do we go all the way back to the toss of the coin?” he asked.
•Wellington Phoenix vs Newcastle Jets.
UNBELIEVABLE. Wellington Phoenix have a penalty four minutes after the incident happened. VAR has completely destroyed this game. The players are furious. What a disaster.
— ⚽️Sam⚽️ (@MaroucheSam) October 21, 2018
But Merrick admitted his team was fortunate half an hour earlier when VAR nullified an apparent goal to Phoenix midfielder Sarpreet Singh.
Merrick and Phoenix coach Mark Rudan both agreed the hand ball ruling was wrong and the goal should have stood.
And in the late game in Perth, VAR twice correctly ruled out goals in Perth Glory’s 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers.
The VAR uproar in New Zealand echoed the sentiments of Melbourne Victory fans at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night, which prompted Fox Sports presenter Mark Bosnich to call for referee Kurt Ams to be stood down.
“It’s an absolutely disgraceful decision. I’m sick of this,” Bosnich said.
“The reason why we’ve got the VAR is so that referees can have a relook at it and realise it wasn’t even a foul … if this is going to continue, they need to lose their job for a couple of weeks.”
Victory coach Kevin Muscat downplayed the uproar, perhaps remembering his side won the 2017-18 grand final after a technical glitch with VAR allowed an offside goal to stand.
“You’re asking for common sense. That’s the one thing that’s not common is it?” Muscat said of the VAR ruling that enabled City to equalise after Keisuke Honda’s header.
Super sub Riley McGree later settled the game with his first touch, finishing clinically after a sublime defence-splitting pass by Luke Brattan.
#MelbDerby – Further explanation of the 39th minute VAR Review.
Corey Brown clearly makes contact with Bruno Fornaroli's knee inside the penalty area. With the on field decision being a free kick outside the penalty area, the decision is reviewed and a penalty awarded. pic.twitter.com/FPcLjx45vP
— Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) October 20, 2018
What did fly under the radar in Round 1 was the underdogs upstaging last season’s grand finalists.
In other matches on Sunday, Central Coast Mariners were largely outplayed in a 1-1 draw at Brisbane Roar, which was delayed by a thunderstorm for 19 minutes and also featured key VAR interventions.
It was the same scoreline in Friday night’s season opener in Adelaide, where the Reds of Adelaide United contained the Sydney FC juggernaut with a tidy display in the 1-1 draw.