Confirmed Video On How VAR Got It Wrong In Champions League Tie For Inter Milan Vs. Barcelona

Referee Christina Unkel explains how VAR erroneously called a crucial handball against Barcelona.

Not one, but two major Inter Milan vs. Barcelona handling offenses enraged the football world this Champions League week. So, we’ll begin by dissecting Ansu Fati’s handling offense, followed by Denzel Dumfries’ handling offense in the final minutes, to better understand how the rules were and were not applied correctly.

Fati gets Pedri’s goal disallowed

First, there was Barcelona’s Fati’s handling offense that negated Pedris goal in the 67th minute. On this play, Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele crosses the ball from the right wing and both Fati and Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana attack the ball and it grazes first Onana and then Fati’s arm, before falling to Pedri for the Barcelona midfielder to slot home.

This was the correct decision by the VAR to recommend the goal be disqualified because of a deliberate handling offense by Fati before the goal.

Two points that need to be highlighted in this play. First, we need to look at how referees are being instructed to define deliberate in current teachings, and, second this was not an accidental handling, negating the goal. Handling is found in IFAB’s Law 12 and has always been controversial in its application. By its nature, it is a very “grey” area of law requiring subjective interpretation. This is apparent since every single week I’m writing about one handball controversy or another!

There areĀ several principlesĀ that explain why referees are being instructed to punish handling offenses like Fati’s:

  • Football expects players to be penalized for handing if they gain possession or control of the ball and gain a major advantage (goal or goal scoring opportunity).
  • The hand/arm above the shoulder height is rarely a natural position.
  • Players “take a risk” by having their arm/hand above their shoulders.

In Fati’s play, here are the facts:

  • The ball was crossed in from a distance.
  • Fati had time to determine whether he was jumping and in fact did jump.
  • The keeper did make contact on the ball shortly before it contacted Fati’s hand.
  • The ball clearly touched Fati’s hand.
  • Fati’s hand was at, or slightly above, his shoulder.
  • The ball went directly to Pedri who immediately put the ball into the goal.

The argument against handling is that the ball was touched by the keeper redirecting it to Fati’s arm. Also, how is Fati supposed to jump without using his arms the way he did. Both are logical arguments, however, as we saw on Champions League Matchday 1 withĀ Manchester United’s Martinez penalty offense again Real SociedadĀ and Matchday 2 inĀ Leverkusen’s Tapsoba handling against Atletic de Madrid, those arguments are overcome by the Handling Principles that guide current interpretation and application. Further, and importantly, deflection or save does not negate handling offenses.

The Final Decision: Deliberate handing offense by Fati, disqualifying Pedri’s goal

Because Fati took the risk to jump with his hand at or above his shoulder, beyond his silhouette that resulted in Pedri receiving the ball and scoring a goal after it touched his hand, the current interpretations have us determine those factors outweigh the others and Fati is to be considered to have made his body unnaturally bigger and his hand to not be in a justifiable position. Further, this is not an “accidental handling” that negates a goal. The Law only has accidental handling negating goals if the accidental handling occurs by the goal scorer themself, in this case, if Pedri accidentally handled. The two degrees removed, accidental handling by an attacker’s teammate leading to a goal was removed by IFAB in 2021-2022.

Denzel Dumfries gets away with one

The second handling offense, a missed call on Dumfries that would have been a penalty for Barcelona in the game’s final minutes, is the one really generating all the controversy. In this instance the shoe is on the other foot, or head as it were, as it was Fati attacking a cross for Barcelona and Inter’s Dumfries who leapt to head the ball away and instead had it deflect off of his arm.

Understandably, the football community is in disbelief at how this was not recommended by VAR to the referee. On replay, the incident seems clear, while it might have been hard to see in real time, when both players leap for the ball, it seems to clearly hit Dumfries extended right arm. Before the VAR era, referees would have still been criticized for missing these kinds of calls on the field in real time. But now, in the VAR era, there is truly no compassion or grace for any clear and obvious errors by the officials. So why did the officials miss it?

In real time, the referee could be seen to have doubt whether it hit Inter’s Dumfries arm or head. He had a tight angle slightly left to the play which could obscure a clear view of where, exactly, contact was made. So the decision on the field was a no call. As replays come in, angles from behind the goal or from AR side do not show a definitive contact with Dumfries hand until we see two important angles – the one directly pointed at Dumfries from the front and the other angle slightly to the left of the play and zoomed into Dumfries hand. At that moment the decision should be clear.

The Final Decision: Missed VAR recommendation for handling offense against Dumfries and penalty for Barcelona

Using the reasons above, this clearly fits into the current interpretation and application for deliberate handling offense. I’ve been asked can VAR’s zoom in on the available camera angles to them and the answer is yes. I’ve been asked why the VAR would have missed this, and it would come down to patience and careful consideration by looking at ALL the camera angles and being sure to take time on the last two angles and zooming in.

What would trigger a more forensic approach is seeing Dumfries reaction in retracting his arm. Another red flag is the direction the ball went. Based on the play, any doubt as to whether Fati headed it is moot as Fati would not have headed the ball backwards.

As mentioned, there is no room for error in the video operating room, and when the referee hears from the VAR “check complete, there is no definitive angle showing a handling offense by Dumfries,” the referee can only rely on this information trusting that the VAR team has thoroughly taken a look at every available angle and could not show him something that would have changed his mind. The VAR is responsible for any recommendation to include definitive evidence to sell the decision to the referee and the football world.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, the VAR failed to recommend a review and send the definitive angles but became too focused on some of the deceptive angles as grounds for not making a recommendation. There is no room for error with technology on the biggest stages in football. In this case, the clear and obvious error was the VAR’s.

Enzo Fernandez’s foul on Marco Verratti deserved a red card

Moving to the Benefica v PSG game, Benefica’s Enzo Fernandez can wake up knowing he’s lucky he did not see a red card on his play against PSG’s Verratti in the 45th min.

When breaking down misconduct, officials are advised to go through the FIFA Considerations to determine whether it is a yellow card for reckless or red card for excessive/serious foul play. A reckless tackle is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent. Excessive force/serious foul play is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and/or endangers the safety of an opponent.

FIFA considerations take into factors: speed, force, point of contact (what body part made), mode of contact (which body part made contact), and lunge.

Final Decision: Missed Red Card to Enzo Fernandez and missed VAR recommendation

So the question is, how did we miss this? Analyzing the incident, it’s that when Enzo commits his tackle, the referee is less than 5 yards from the offense. Sometimes being too close to the play limits the ability to fully appreciate the speed and force as oppose to when you can see the entire picture.

The referee, through no fault of his own, was in a good position through the entire sequence of play until the last pass which led to a loose touch from Fernandez. and he had no ability to alter his position and distance. Due to being tight to the play, he saw the contact but wasn’t able to appreciate the speed and the force Fernandez crashed into Verratti with as he tried to recover from his touch. Further, there can be doubt for the referee whether Enzo leaves a foot intentionally or Veratti’s slide to win the ball created the momentum into the space, leaving grey area between yellow or red card.

So why did VAR not become involved if it is a clear and obvious error? VARs struggle with sending a recommendation to a referee to review a play they have a clear view of. Here it is apparent the referee has a clear, unobstructed view, but as mentioned, he cannot appreciate the speed and force where the studs made contact on Verratti’s lower shin. It is critical that VARs remember the context and not let the referees unobstructed view be the reason to not recommend a review.

Ultimately, similar to assistant referees, the VAR is providing information, it is still up to the referee to determine whether they accept the recommendation or not. Here the VAR should have recommended a review for red card as all the considerations for a red card were met and the video evidence would have sold the referee as to who created actually created the contact to move him from a yellow card to a red card.

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