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The VAR Review: Haaland's foul on Fabinho, Newcastle penalty, drama for Arsenal

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How Liverpool stopped the Man City juggernaut in its tracks (1:23)

Shaka Hislop sings the praises of Liverpool after their 1-0 win over Manchester City. (1:23)

Video Assistant Referee causes controversy every week in the Premier League, but how are decisions made, and are they correct?

After each weekend we take a look at the major incidents, to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

- How VAR decisions affected every Prem club in 2022-23
- VAR's wildest moments: Alisson's two red cards in one game
- VAR in the Premier League: Ultimate guide

JUMP TO: Man United 0-0 Newcastle | Leeds 0-1 Arsenal | Southampton 1-1 West Ham | Wolves 1-0 Forest | Spurs 2-0 Everton | Fulham 2-2 Bournemouth

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester City

VAR overturn: Goal disallowed for foul on Fabinho by Haaland

What happened: Manchester City thought they had taken the lead in the 53rd minute through Phil Foden, but there was a VAR review after Fabinho went to ground in the buildup under a challenge from Erling Haaland.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

VAR review: This brings us back around to a discussion from last month, when Arsenal striker Gabriel Martinelli had a goal ruled out for a foul in the buildup by Martin Odegaard on Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen.

If referees are officiating games to a higher threshold, allowing the game to flow more and not giving so-called soft free kicks, then the VAR should be trying to officiate that way too.

Referee Anthony Taylor saw the incident and, as he had done so in the rest of the game, decided there wasn't enough in the challenge to warrant a free kick; he is seen to gesture at Fabinho to get up.

The VAR, Darren England, is effectively re-refereeing the game by intervening and making a judgement on an individual incident to a different standard. Once Taylor is sent to the monitor and shown the pull on the shirt, he has little option than to go with the advice of the VAR. Perhaps Taylor didn't see the tug, but the fact remains that disallowing the goal for this went against the way the game was being officiated.

The independent panel, which assesses all major decisions, told Arsenal that the VAR shouldn't have become involved in the Odegaard-Eriksen incident, and this feels like it's on those exact same lines.

However, there was no way the goal could stand, regardless of the merits of the Fabinho-Haaland incident.

Subsequently, Haaland kicked the ball when it was already under Alisson's control. It's a very simple area of law: if the goalkeeper has even one hand on the ball when it is on the ground, he is deemed to be in control and cannot be challenged. If Taylor had rejected the overturn for the possible foul by Haaland on Fabinho, he would then have been shown this next situation.

It's the same as Jacob Ramsey's disallowed goal for Aston Villa against Leicester City last season, when he kicked the ball after goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had control of it in law.


Manchester United 0-0 Newcastle United

Possible penalty: Varane challenge on Wilson

What happened: Callum Wilson tried to break into the box in the ninth minute, and went down under a challenge from Raphael Varane. Referee Craig Pawson waved away the penalty appeals.

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: The VAR, Jarred Gillett, didn't advise a penalty as he felt Wilson ran into the position where Varane had made the challenge, rather than Varane fouling his opponent. But that would suggest a striker merely holding his running line could be construed as initiating contact, which isn't the way this should work.

Varane sticks a leg out into the path of Wilson and fouls the striker. It's a penalty and the independent panel will likely tell Newcastle boss Eddie Howe that a spot kick decision was missed.

Disallowed goal: Ronaldo after offside decision

What happened: It was the 48th minute when Newcastle were preparing to take a free kick for offside. Fabian Schar knocked the ball back to goalkeeper Nick Pope, who was assessing the situation but hadn't touched the ball when Cristiano Ronaldo took it and rolled it into the empty net. Referee Pawson blew his whistle immediately, stopping play before the "goal" was scored. It certainly wasn't clear that Schar's actions were a play of the free-kick situation.

VAR decision: No VAR review possible.

VAR review: As the referee blew the whistle before the ball entered the goal, there's no role for the VAR. The referee deemed the free kick hasn't been taken when the ball was rolled back to Pope. In terms of game management, it would be far more controversial to allow a goal. Pope clearly was not acting as though the free kick had been taken to him, and he was preparing to take it himself.

Possible penalty: Longstaff on Sancho

What happened: Just before the hour mark, Jadon Sancho went down in the area when he appeared to be caught by Sean Longstaff. The referee waved away penalty appeals.

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: This makes it 1-1 in terms of incidents which could have resulted in a penalty. There is contact by Longstaff on Sancho, and the reason the spot kick hasn't been given is due to the exaggerated nature of Sancho's fall.

The VAR will always take into account the way a player goes to ground, and motives behind that, and Sancho has in effect been penalised for jumping into the air and rolling across the ground.


Leeds United 0-1 Arsenal

Goal disallowed: Push by Bamford on Gabriel

What happened: Leeds United thought they had equalised in the 46th minute when Patrick Bamford scored, but referee Chris Kavanagh ruled the goal out for a push on Arsenal defender Gabriel.

VAR decision: Decision stands.

VAR review: It seems a soft decision, with the referee disallowing the goal because Bamford pushed Gabriel as the Arsenal man was about to head the ball on the edge of the six-yard box.

Kavanagh didn't blow his whistle until after the ball had crossed the line, so the VAR, Paul Tierney, could have advised the goal should be allowed. However, as Kavanagh identified a push and that was clearly present, there is no chance a VAR would ever go against such a decision made on the field of play.

VAR overturn: Penalty for handball against Saliba

What happened: In the 60th minute, Jack Harrison played the ball into the area and after it dropped over Leeds' Marc Roca it hit the outstretched arm of William Saliba.

VAR decision: Penalty, missed by Bamford.

VAR review: Saliba had his arm away from his body and it was clear from the Arsenal defender's reaction that he knew he had conceded a penalty. He was only booked for the handball, as goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was likely to get the ball ahead of Roca, rather than being sent off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

There was also an offside offence in the buildup to the penalty situation, against Rasmus Kristensen. While it's clear the player was in an offside position which was missed by the assistant, Tierney judged that the Arsenal defence had reset when Leeds recycled the ball back out around the penalty box. When the attacking phase has ended on a possible offside will always be subjective, and on another day a different VAR may judge this to be the same phase, but the Premier League did make it clear at the start of the season that the VAR wouldn't go too far back in the play to penalise an offence.

VAR overturn: Penalty and red card cancelled, Gabriel challenge on Bamford

What happened: Three minutes into added time, referee Kavanagh gave Leeds a penalty for a foul by Gabriel on Leeds striker Bamford.

VAR decision: No penalty, red card downgraded to yellow.

VAR review: This was a decision initially advised by the assistant referee, who judged that Gabriel was the offender and told the referee there should be a penalty and a red card. The ball was in play with Ramsdale when Gabriel was adjudged to have kicked out at Bamford inside the area.

However, it's clear that Bamford had made the first foul by barging Gabriel to the floor. It was a simple decision for the VAR to overturn the penalty.

The referee then retains all possible options on Gabriel, despite the penalty being cancelled. Kavanagh can stand by the red card, downgrade to yellow or cancel all disciplinary action. There is a case for the red card to stand, as Gabriel does make contact with Bamford with his feet. Kavanagh judged the challenge as unsportsmanlike behaviour and changed the card to yellow.


Southampton 1-1 West Ham United

Possible penalty: Perraud challenge on Soucek

What happened: In the opening moments of the game, Tomas Soucek went to ground inside the area under a challenge from Romain Perraud. Referee Peter Bankes waved away the penalty appeals.

VAR decision: No penalty

VAR review: David Moyes was furious about this decision, calling Perraud's challenge a "judo move," and you can understand his frustration.

There is little interest from Perraud in challenging for the ball, and he is clearly affecting Soucek's ability to get on the end of the cross. We'll hear more of this kind of incident in the later sections.

It's often difficult to judge when holding moves from normal football contact to clearly restricting the opponent. The VAR, Simon Hooper, decided there wasn't enough in the incident to get involved, though he wouldn't have overturned it had Bankes given the spot kick. West Ham can certainly feel hard done by.

Possible foul throw: Walker-Peters leading to Perraud goal

What happened: Southampton opened the scoring in the 20th minute through a deflected Perraud goal, but many felt Kyle Walker-Peters had made a foul throw directly leading to it.

VAR decision: Goal stands

VAR review: A quick one to cover. Firstly, it wasn't a foul throw because part of Walker-Peters' foot was on the line. It doesn't matter if part of the foot is over the line, as long as part of it is on it. And secondly, VAR cannot review any restarts -- foul throws, moving balls, ball not in the correct position, etc.

West Ham were unfortunate that referee Bankes got in the way of Jarrod Bowen before Perraud scored, but if the ball doesn't hit the referee there's nothing he can do to stop the passage of play. Sometimes a referee just gets unlucky on where they are stood and how the ball rebounds out.

The Hammers did benefit from some good refereeing for their equaliser later in the game. This time the ball did hit Bankes earlier in the move, so he could have stopped play and restarted with a dropped ball, but as a quick attack wasn't created from the situation, and the ball fell to another West Ham player, he allowed play to continue and they eventually scored through Declan Rice.


Wolves 1-0 Nottingham Forest

Possible penalty: Handball by Gomes

What happened: In the 25th minute, Neco Williams had a shot on goal and the ball hit the arm of Tote Gomes. Referee Thomas Bramall rejected the penalty appeals.

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: The ball hits the arm of Gomes, but it was clearly down by his side and not in an unnatural position.

In addition, the guidance issued to referees around exceptions for handball offences is covered by the "hand/arm is moving into the body to avoid contact with the ball."

VAR overturn: Penalty for handball by Toffolo

What happened: Adama Traore had a shot on goal in the 52nd minute and the ball hit the arm of Harry Toffolo. The referee waved play on.

VAR decision: Penalty, scored by Ruben Neves.

VAR review: In contrast to the Gomes incident, Toffolo makes his body bigger by moving his arm out and blocking a shot on goal. The VAR, Lee Mason, again decided upon a VAR intervention.

Some may feel decisions such as this are harsh, but they have been consistent across the season when the arm is out and not in a position justifiable by body movement.

VAR overturn: Penalty for foul by Nunes on Yates

What happened: In the 75th minute, Matheus Nunes challenged on Ryan Yates on a corner.

VAR decision: Penalty, missed by Brennan Johnson.

VAR review: This brings us back around to the penalty West Ham were not awarded. There appeared to be more contact between Soucek and Perraud than Nunes on Yates, yet it's this one that's a VAR penalty.

In this decision, Nunes is judged to have made enough contact on Yates to impede his ability to play the ball.

This may be a decision which shows how the VARs are being trained around holding throughout the season, as Mason was also the VAR who chose not to give Newcastle United a penalty against Wolves for Nunes' holding offence on Sean Longstaff.


Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Everton

Penalty awarded: Pickford foul on Kane

What happened: Tottenham took the lead in the 59th minute from the penalty spot when Jordan Pickford brought down Harry Kane.

VAR decision: Decision stands.

VAR review: Pickford clearly collides with Kane as he dives out for the ball, and with referee Paul Tierney giving the penalty there's no chance that the VAR, Andre Marriner, will overturn the on-field decision.

But did Pickford make contact with Kane, or Kane make contact with Pickford? It's a subjective decision which will split opinion -- and on that basis the VAR is unlikely to get involved, whichever way the referee gives it.


Fulham 2-2 Bournemouth

Possible penalty: Foul by Ream on Fredericks

What happened: In the 25th minute, Ryan Fredericks broke into the box and appeared to be pulled back by Tim Ream. Referee Graham Scott wasn't interested in the penalty appeals.

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: Many will believe this should be a penalty as there's clear contact by Ream to tug on Fredericks' arm.

The VAR, Robert Jones, has judged that Fredericks went to ground in a manner that didn't match the incident -- ergo, Fredericks embellished the way he went to ground to try and win the penalty. Essentially, the reasoning is the same as the Sancho incident in Man United vs. Newcastle. In both cases the forward player exaggerated the nature of his fall and was judged to go to ground in a theatrical manner which did not match the nature of the contact.

It's fair to say that holding of this nature, which is present but not prolonged, is very rarely penalised by a VAR.

Possible penalty: Handball by Ream

What happened: In first-half injury time the ball hit the arm of Ream inside the area.

VAR decision: No penalty

VAR review: This is covered in law, in that if the ball hits an arm which is down in a position to support the body, whether it is touching the ground or not, no penalty should be awarded.

Penalty awarded: Foul by Lerma on Mitrovic

What happened: Referee Scott awarded a 51st minute penalty when Jefferson Lerma wrestled Aleksandar Mitrovic to the ground.

VAR decision: Decision stands.

VAR review: For Soucek, see Yates, and see Mitrovic. Three situations all with their own merits, and each reaching an outcome by a different method.

Soucek: No penalty, no VAR intervention.
Yates: No penalty, but then VAR intervention.
Mitrovic: Penalty given, no VAR intervention.

It provides the perfect example of how three separate holding offences will be treated differently depending on the specifics: the referee's decision, the nature of the challenge and the subjective opinion of the VAR.

Both Mitrovic and Lerma were holding each other, but with Scott giving the penalty himself meaning there's little chance that the VAR would get involved.

Information provided by the Premier League and PGMOL was used in this story.