Worst VAR calls in Premier League history – ranked

Even describing VAR as marmite would be a flattering portrayal.

Since the Premier League followed the lead of the rest of Europe’s top five divisions in 2019 by introducing VAR, football supporters haven’t quite taken to the technology as quickly as those in charge would have hoped.

Here are the ten worst VAR decisions in England’s top flight since it was first rolled out.

It was hoped that VAR would reverse ‘clear and obvious’ errors on behalf of the officials, but Stuart Armstrong’s nasty, studs-up challenge on Aymeric Laporte last season underlines its blindspot.

The game was petering out to a 1-1 draw when, ten minutes from time, the Man City central defender was caught high up on his thigh by a crunching challenge by Armstrong.

VAR failed to correct the referee’s error, with Laporte’s tweet from the dressing room post-match highlighting the severity of cut on his anatomy.

David Coote, Mario Lemina

Lemina couldn’t believe it / Clive Rose/GettyImages

VAR’s hazy rules over handball incidents was highlighted in March 2021 when Fulham were denied an equaliser against Tottenham in their 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage.

Josh Maja appeared to score a legitimate goal, but the strike was ruled out when Mario Lemina was adjudged to have handled the ball previously in the move.

Although partly true, it was difficult to make the case that the Cottagers had gained an advantage considering the ball was blasted against the Frenchman, who had his arms by his side, from five yards away.

Vicente Guaita, Diogo Jota

Jota caused some controversy / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Another issue with VAR is that incidents that occur on the field are either black or white. There is very little room for context.

This particular problem was highlighted when Liverpool were awarded a penalty in their 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park last season after Diogo Jota went down in the penalty area under contact from Crystal Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

After initially waving away appeals, the referee reversed his decision after a trip to the pitchside monitor despite replays visibly showing that the contact was initiated by the Portuguese forward.

Phil Foden, Alex McCarthy

Foden was too honest for his own good / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

City boss Pep Guardiola was left incensed when his side were denied a penalty against Southampton in the 2020/21 campaign after Phil Foden appeared to have been clattered by goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

However, instead of staying down after the contact, the England midfieler immediately rose to his feet with an opportunity to score. The move eventually ended in nothing, but there was a mutual understanding that a spot-kick would be awarded after the referee was informed by VAR.

Instead, the VAR concurred with referee Jon Moss’ call and, in the end, Foden was penalised for his integrity.

Matches between Arsenal and Everton at Goodison Park are invariably spicey affairs, and last season’s clash between the two failed to disappoint.

However, the Gunners faithful were left aggrieved when Toffees defender Ben Godfrey appeared to land a boot on Takehiro Tomiyasu’s face with the Japanese player prone on the turf.

Referee Mike Dean was ordered to pay a visit to the pitchside monitor, but no further action was taken on a night when Mikel Arteta’s side suffered a late defeat.

Newcastle were denied what appeared a clear-cut penalty decision when Ryan Fraser went down in the area against Man City last season.

City’s blushes were spared given Fraser didn’t make any contact with the ball as Joao Cancelo mopped up the danger, but the Scotland international was wiped out by a sliding Ederson as the Brazilian rushed out of his goal.

The St. James’ Park faithful were up off their seats, while Cancelo appeared to stop in possession of the ball half-anticipating that a penalty would be given.

Wolves midfielder Joao Moutinho was left stunned when he was penalised for a handball in his side’s narrow 1-0 defeat to Man City at the Etihad Stadium last season.

With his arms raised, Bernardo Silva’s cross struck the Portuguese, although replays showed that the ball had hit the midfielder’s armpit area.

Wolves boss Bruno Lage was less than impressed with the decision in his interview after the game.

Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Pickford

Pickford challenges Van Dijk / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Liverpool’s title defence in 2020/21 was effectively ended when Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford collided with Virgil van Dijk at Goodison Park in a goalless Merseyside Derby draw.

It was a clear-cut red card offence given the height and angle in which the Toffees stopper caught Van Dijk, but he escaped punishment given the Dutchman was flagged offside.

The Liverpool defender never played again that season as a result of the challenge, while referee Michael Oliver later admitted that Pickford should have walked for the tackle.

In a game fraught with controversy from last season, Harry Kane was bizarrely spared a straight red card for a wild lunge on Andy Robertson.

Jurgen Klopp certainly took umbrage with the decision as he approached referee Paul Tierney at full-time after an entertaining 2-2 draw, with the German fuming that Robertson was later given his marching orders following a VAR review for a kick on Emerson Royal.

“A three-year-old could tell you that is a penalty,” bemoaned Everton boss Frank Lampard after his side were denied a penalty in their 1-0 defeat to Man City last season.

Attempting to control a loose ball in the penalty area, Rodri appeared to strike the ball with his arm outside of his natural silhouette, although Everton appeals were waved away.

The decision was magnified given Liverpool finished just a point behind City in the Premier League title race, with a potentially pivotal call going in the Cityzens direction at a crucial stage in the season.

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