Sport Football Raising the VAR: A-League season kicks off with familiar controversy

Raising the VAR: A-League season kicks off with familiar controversy

Referee Kurt Ams opts for a video review in Saturday night's Melbourne derby. Photo: Getty
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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.

“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.

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.

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.

-with AAP

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