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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Technology in Sports ... Liverpool fumes VAR

When technology is available – it should be put to optimum use ! – oft heard !! but many a times, there is resistance ..

In Cricket, use of technology and DRS has changed manythings especially, no-balls, run-outs, lbws, whether catches have been taken cleanly, whether ball / fielder touched the boundary and more .. .. recently there was an incident when there was a referral on whether the ball had carried and the catch was clean – ie., whether it had touched the ground or not .. ..but keen observers would have noticed that upon making the referral sign, Umpire also signaled out ! – the Q could be – why give Out when the Umpire is inconclusive and why is he deciding when technology is available.

The answer is Umpire makes a soft signal ie., Umpire consulting  the TV umpire regarding a close catch or so, also reveals his decision based on normal vision and instincts.  Primarily it is more a Q of Onfield Umpire asking whether he was right ? – but why should it be – when it is left to technology, it should be simply technology reliant !!  - also if there is a blatant error, the TV Umpire should be in a position to interfere to have the right decision made.  Some may jump at this – but there were days when Umpires would bungle with no-ball and the Umpire’s decision was final.  There even had been occasions when wrong counting allowed an over containing more 6 legal deliveries.  Way back in 1986, there was incident in England when India had 12 players on field.  As one would have noticed the ‘beep’ sound nowadays for no ball (decision made by TV Umpire) – technology should be used without frills.

Liverpool were leading 1-0 when Everton goalkeeper Pickford injured Van Dijk in a challenge that led to the Liverpool defender being substituted.   Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck late on as 10-man Everton twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool. That is a simple reporting of the match but there was so much behind that – technology is being questioned. 

Sadio Mane gave Liverpool a third-minute lead, converting a cross from the rampaging Andrew Robertson. But after Virgil van Dijk had limped off, Michael Keane headed in James Rodriguez's corner on 19 minutes for Everton's first Goodison derby goal in five seasons. After half-time, Richarlison hit a post, before Mohamed Salah's spectacular shot on 72 minutes made it 2-1 for his 100th goal for Liverpool. With nine minutes remaining, Calvert-Lewin headed in Lucas Digne's cross but then Richarlison was sent off for a foul on Thiago. Jordan Henderson thought he had won it for the champions in stoppage time, but his effort was overturned by the VAR for offside.

Everton drop points for the first time this season but are top with 13 points. Liverpool rise to second on 10 points.  The Premier League, often referred to outside England as the English Premier League or the EPL, is the top level of the English football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the English Football League (EFL). Seasons run from August to May with each team playing 38 matches (playing all 19 other teams both home and away – of course now the games are played to empty stands.

The competition was founded as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from the Football League, founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. The Premier League is the most-watched sports league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people.  Forty-nine clubs have competed since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.

The incident much spoken now 9s the offside given by VAR  - the rules suggest Pickford could have been sent off for serious foul play, though this is a subjective call, and had they felt he was making a genuine attempt to play the ball it would not have been possible to award a red card. Champions Liverpool were foiled by VAR as they were held to a 2-2 Premier League derby draw with Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday after a late effort from Jordan Henderson was ruled out.

The game was locked at 2-2 after Dominic Calvert-Lewin's 10th goal of the season in all competitions had brought Everton level in the 81st minute. But in stoppage time, Thiago Alcantara found Sadio Mane with a clever pass and the Senagalese's low cross was turned in by Henderson, only for VAR to find the narrowest of offsides.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was on the centre spot ready to restart the final seconds of another stoppage-time and self-inflicted derby defeat for Everton. Jürgen Klopp, having filled the empty stands of Goodison Park with a boom of delight when Jordan Henderson struck Liverpool’s winner in the 92nd minute, was cajoling his players back into position. Then the referee, Michael Oliver, stopped. Everything stopped; the restart, the defeat and the victory. All wiped away by the ruinous influence of VAR.

When Oliver awarded a free-kick to Everton for a barely detectable offside against Sadio Mané, and not the goal everyone inside the stadium believed had been scored, the blue contingent dotted around the directors’ box leapt into the air. As well they might, unaccustomed as they are to outrageous fortune in the Merseyside derby. Everton’s 10-year wait for a win over Liverpool goes on but this time without complaint.  

But for VAR Jordan Pickford would have conceded a penalty and should have been sent off for a disgraceful foul on Virgil van Dijk that forced the commanding Liverpool defender out of the game in the sixth minute. No penalty could be given as VAR spotted Van Dijk in an offside position as he awaited Fabinho’s cross to the back post. The VAR officials chose not to consider a possible – clear – red card for the Everton goalkeeper for serious foul play.

Then in injury time, three minutes after Richarlison had been dismissed for an over-the-top foul that added Thiago Alcântara to Liverpool’s injury list, VAR ruled out Henderson’s strike. Klopp was too incandescent afterwards to offer genuine praise to Mohamed Salah for scoring his 100th goal in a Liverpool shirt. A stirring reaction to the 7-2 embarrassment at Aston Villa last time out will provide consolation when the blood levels lower in a few days’ time.

Boss Jurgen Klopp was angry after Jordan Henderson's late goal was ruled out for offside against Sadio Mane. He also questioned how Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had not been dismissed for a challenge that injured Virgil van Dijk early on.  "The picture I saw was not offside, but it was because somebody decided it," said Klopp. Pickford escaped punishment as Van Dijk was offside in the build-up, although it is unclear whether VAR official David Coote did subsequently check for a potential red card.

Liverpool have asked the Premier League to review the use of VAR in a dramatic and highly controversial Merseyside derby that left Virgil van Dijk and Thiago Alcântara requiring scans on suspected knee injuries.

The video assistant referee (VAR) is an assistant referee in association football who reviews decisions made by the head referee with the use of video footage and headset for communication specifically in order to minimize human errors causing substantial influence on match results. There are four categories of decisions that can be reviewed:

•        Goal/no goal – attacking team commits an offence, ball out of play, ball entering goal, offside, handball, offences and encroachment during penalty kicks.

•        Penalty/no penalty – attacking team commits an offence, ball out of play, location of offence, incorrect awarding, offence not penalised.

•        Straight red card – denial of obvious goal-scoring opportunity, serious foul play, violent conduct/biting/spitting, using offensive/insulting/abusive language or gestures. All straight red cards are subject to review.

•        Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card.

The VAR team, stationed in the video operation room (VOR), automatically checks every on-field referee decision falling under the above four  reviewable categories. If the VAR does not identify any mistake during the check, this is communicated to the referee. This is called a "silent check" and requires no further action, usually not causing any delay to the game. At other times, a VAR check may cause the game to be delayed while the VAR ascertains whether or not a possible mistake has occurred. The referee may delay the restart of play for this to occur, and indicates an ongoing check by pointing to their ear.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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