LaLiga: VAR making referees worse at their job
On Saturday, Sevilla and Atlético's 1-1 draw threw up an unusual incident, when the ball became lodged between Jules Koundé's legs on the goal line. Referee José González could think of nothing better to do than penalise Atlético's Álvaro Morata when he came in and tried to kick it, but obstructing the ball like that is a foul, and I'm sure the decision would have gone the other way elsewhere on the pitch. However, because it happened right in front of goal, González froze. I think I've complained in this column before that refs never seem to give indirect free-kicks in the area anymore, despite it still being in the laws of the game. You used to see it with relative frequency, and it's a scenario of singular excitement and tension.
Sevilla-Atlético incident highlights VAR's dangerous effect on refs
It should have been an indirect free-kick on the edge of the six-yard box, with Sevilla lining up under the posts to try to keep it out. Who knows whether Atleti would have scored; it's never easy with such a crowd of bodies on the line. I've seen some go in. We would have enjoyed an unusual scene of no little danger to Sevilla, though - and, above all, the rules would have been observed. The referee's error here is another symptom of something I've discussed more than once with AS' resident ref, former whistler Eduardo Iturralde. VAR is engendering a passivity in officials which, quite simply, is making them worse at their job. When they see something unusual they just let it go, in the belief that the video assistant will step in if need be.
In this instance, VAR rules did not allow for its intervention, so González's mistake could not be rectified. It's another moment that undermines our faith in a system that VAR was meant to improve. On the same day, a further question mark was thrown up, in Barcelona's defeat at Levante. Why didn't VAR overturn the award of a Barça penalty when it emerged that Antoine Griezmann was offside earlier in the attack? A year ago, an Atlético goal was disallowed because of a Rodri foul at the start of the move. I'm told that, in this case, the defence "had had time to set itself again". I'd say this clarification drifts into a degree of a nuance that's tough to justify. Either that, or it's just an attempt to explain away a mistake after the fact.
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