Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Five matches that show how different Premier League history would be if we'd had VAR

Some key moments in Premier League history could have been very, very different. Credit: PA

Like it or not, the Premier League is introducing the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for the start of the new season in August.

It’s been a long time coming, after years of campaigners comparing officiating in football to sports like cricket and tennis, which use technology to help decision-making.

VAR looks at four key areas:

  • All goals scored
  • Penalty kicks, whether they're awarded or not
  • Direct red-card offences - not second yellow cards but straight reds
  • Any case of mistaken identity.

We take a look at some of the most infamous decisions in league history that caught the most attention - and could have been corrected under the new system.

  • Luis Suarez bites Branislav Ivanovic
Luis Suarez should have been sent off before he scored a late goal against Chelsea. Credit: PA

The Uruguayan was rarely far from headlines, be it for his brilliance or his behaviour, and one of the most memorable moments in his Liverpool career came towards the end of their game against old rivals Chelsea at Anfield in April 2013.

The Reds were losing 2-1 with a little more than 15 minutes left when Steven Gerrard’s cross came off a Chelsea defender for a corner kick.

As the ball deflected off the field, Suarez, marked by Ivanovic, turned and planted his face into the defender’s arm, biting the Serb before seemingly complaining of an injury himself.

Ivanovic was remarkably calm following the bite and didn’t seem to put up much of a protest to the referee, who would soon admit he would have sent Suarez off had he seen the incident.

Kevin Friend wrote in his match report: “I have to report that on approx 65 mins in this match Branislav Ivanovic made an allegation to me that Luis Suarez had just bitten him.

“I did not see the incident as it happened off the ball and I was looking elsewhere. Having had a look at the DVD of the match I can confirm and it is clear that Luis Suarez did deliberately bite his opponent Branislav Ivanovic.

“If I had seen this incident at the time I would have classed this as violent conduct by Luis Suarez and sent him from the field of play.”

Given that this would have been a direct red-card offence, it’s almost certain VAR would have pulled this up and notified Mr Friend.

Instead Suarez stayed on the pitch and went on to tie the game at 2-2 after seven minutes of added time.

He was later banned by the FA for 10 games but the draw stood.

  • Liverpool saved by the whistle

Suarez was not the first Liverpool player to benefit from a wrong decision.

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld can count his lucky stars after referee Graham Poll bizarrely disallowed Don Hutchinson’s last-minute goal for Everton in the Merseyside Derby.

It was 0-0 in April 2000 and, as Westerveld ran up to take a free-kick from his own box with just seconds left, it looked certain that the bitter rivals would share the spoils.

But his free-kick only went as far as Hutchinson’s head, who was walking back up the pitch when he turned to see the ball had bounced back over the keeper and into the goal.

Goodison Park erupted but the celebrations were cut short as referee Graham Poll ruled he had already blown the final whistle.

He would later admit, after retirement, that he got it wrong.

A strange decision, but one that may have been looked at again by VAR and surely corrected.

  • Didier Drogba’s ’title-winning’ offside goal

Sorry, this content isn't available on your device.

Towards the end of the 2009/10 season, Manchester United were in poll position to seal an unprecedented fourth consecutive top-flight title.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side headed into a huge game against Chelsea at Old Trafford in early April just a point ahead of the Blues in the table and with six games remaining.

Every point was precious, but luck was on the visitors’ side as striker Didier Drogba latched onto a pass from midfield with little more than 10 minutes to go and gave his side their second goal.

Replays showed the Ivorian was clearly offside when the pass was played and the goal should not have counted.

Chelsea won the game 2-1 and went on to win the league on goal difference.

  • Wayne Rooney’s ‘dive’
Wayne Rooney congratulates a passionately-celebrating Ruud Van Nistelrooy after scoring the goal that ended Arsenal's unbeaten run. Credit: PA

It’s not been all bad luck for United in the Premier League, as almost any Arsenal fan would testify.

The Gunners had gone unbeaten for seven games when they faced their enemy during the 2003/2004 season in a game that would be dubbed the Battle of Old Trafford.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy missed a last-minute penalty with the score at 0-0, much to the delight of the Arsenal players, who hounded the Dutchman at full-time.

A year later, Arsenal – dubbed the ‘Invincibles’ - had gone 49 games without losing in the Premier League and arrived as champions back at Old Trafford – with the home side determined to stop the longest unbeaten run in English football history.

With less than 20 minutes left in a tense game, Wayne Rooney knocked the ball past Arsenal defender Sol Campbell, who dangled his left foot in front of the young striker.

Rooney, seemingly tripped by Campbell, fell to the floor and a penalty was awarded.

Replays showed contact was minimal at best.

While United fans would point to Ashley Cole’s earlier foul on Cristiano Ronaldo in the box and argue they were owed a penalty either way, Rooney’s fall came late in the game and gave Arsenal little time to mount a comeback.

Van Nistelrooy went on to exorcise his demons from a year before and bury the spot-kick, leading to one of the Premier League’s most iconic celebrations and the end of Arsenal’s Invincibles.

Cesc Fabregas threw pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson after a stormy end to the game.

  • Kieran Gibbs sent off instead of his teammate
A shocked Kieran Gibbs (left, in red) checks with referee Andre Marriner. Credit: PA

As if that were not enough, Arsenal fans have added reason to wish VAR had been implemented sooner.

It was legendary manager Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge of the north London club but the Gunners were already 2-0 down to Chelsea when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain used his hand to stop a shot from Eden Hazard.

It was a straightforward red-card offence but referee Andre Marriner sent off the wrong man – Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs.

Despite TV replays showing Oxlade-Chamberlain seemingly telling the referee he handled the ball, Marriner stuck by his decision and wrongly sent off Gibbs.

Arsenal lost the game 6-0.

  • An honourable mention for Pedro Mendes

With a minute left to play at Old Trafford and the score still tied at 0-0, the ball fell to Spurs midfielder Pedro Mendes just beyond the halfway line.

Spotting Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll off his goal line, the Portuguese hit a hopeful shot from around 50 yards out.

Carroll scurried back in time for what should have been a routine save – but what happened next would make calls to introduce technology into the Premier League almost impossible to ignore any longer.

The keeper would admit years later he took his eye off the ball as it bounced between his gloves and shoulder before dropping at least a clear yard behind the line and into the goal.

The Northern Irishman clawed the ball back onto the pitch as the Spurs fans began cheering what should have been a late winning goal.

It seemed everyone in the stadium and at home saw the goal, but the most important men did not - and the score remained goalless at full time on that night in March 2005.

But Mendes' goal-that-never-was would not have been a decision for VAR.

Instead, the Premier League introduced goal-line technology, which would have notified the referee immediately that it was indeed a goal and given Spurs a famous win at Old Trafford.