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A derby of VAR and Vinicius

AS editor Alfredo Relaño looks back on Saturday's Madrid derby, which, besides the VAR controversies, was played "with fire, passion and several pieces of individual brilliance".


For those who feared that VAR would end refereeing controversies – “the spice of football,” they said – it seems there is no need to worry. At halftime at the Madrid derby on Saturday, the Wanda Metropolitano was a hotbed of debate.

Las Madridistas claimed there was a foul on Vinicius by Correa in the lead up to Griezmann's goal. Los Atléticos claimed the foul on Vinicius that led to a penalty was outside the penalty area. And it didn’t stop there: minutes after the break, a goal by Morata was cancelled out when VAR made a hairline offside call. And soon after that, Atlético players protested for a penalty when Morata, involved again, appeared to be brought down inside the box by Casemiro.

But besides the refereeing controversies, we were treated to a derby played as they always have been, with fire, passion and several pieces of individual brilliance. Madrid won it because they were the better team and because they defended well. Simeone started with Correa and Lemar to try to take it to Madrid out wide, but it didn’t work. In the second half he had to throw on Rodrigo and Vitolo, who had been in the running to start.

It was the derby of VAR, and also the derby of Vinicius, who played well once again. In each game, he offers new things, but always with the audacity he showed on his first day. He was a dagger in the Atléti’s side while he was on. When he came off to make way for Bale, we all felt that we had lost something.

Bale, at least, justified his presence with a decent goal from a well-worked counter-attack, via Benzema and Modric. And the Welshman’s goal – Madrid’s third – drew the curtain on a game that will add fuel to the eternal controversy surrounding refereeing decisions, something which no technology can ever bring to an end. It was also a game that showed the work that Solari has done with this team, which is looking more secure and powerful with each passing day.