LaLiga: VAR falling short when it comes to violent play
Among the things I've noticed about VAR, whose implementation in LaLiga still shows plenty of room for improvement, the most troubling problem that has come to my attention is the area of red cards for serious foul play. So far this season, we've seen some fairly major incidents whose seriousness has been overlooked by the referee out in the middle, and - despite all the replays at his disposal - haven't caused the official upstairs undue alarm, either. During the most recent round of Primera División fixtures, there were three particularly striking episodes, one of which was a tremendously dangerous high challenge by Atlético Madrid's Stefan Savic on Real Sociedad's Luca Sangalli. The system has served to quell violent play much less than I had expected it to, and I find that very disappointing.
How did Savic avoid red for his Sangalli challenge?
I'd like to focus in on the Savic incident, because it was Antonio Mateu Lahoz who was the referee involved. How can it be that he didn't see it? There are things the ref can miss or be unsighted for, but this isn't one of them. No, this is merely the latest evidence that Mateu Lahoz - who has been ill-deservedly elevated to the status of Spain's number-one ref thanks to the influence of his regional federation, which positioned itself well under ex-Spanish FA chief Ángel María Villar - isn't very good. He's had more decisions overturned by VAR than any other official, three of which by Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea... who he now appears no longer to be working with. The other day, it was Mario Melero López. Did he really fail to see Savic's brutality on his monitor? Or was he afraid to show up the FA's favourite?
Let's use VAR to put a stop to violent play
However, I don't want to talk exclusively about Mateu Lahoz and Savic. There have been other incidents, too; we've all seen them. The video assistant referees ought to be encouraged to use the technology for the most noble of its possible purposes: putting a stop to violent play. Spain's refereeing chiefs are aware of the issue and are working on it, I'm told. Just as we're seeing that VAR is interfering in things happening inside the penalty box that are not really worth the scrutiny or are subjective in nature, a state of affairs which only causes confusion, it's leaving other, violent incidents alone that we'd all be in agreement over. There are now observers suggesting it's going to be a matter of waiting for VAR specialists to be blooded. At the end of the day, it's a new tool that brings with it a learning process.
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