Real Madrid left Anoeta leader after a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday evening, but the storm unleashed by three bits of goal-related play will go on for a fair while and put the VAR system firmly in the spotlight, if it wasn't already there. All three passages of play gave rise to doubts, which were only compounded by the attitude of referee Estrada Fernández, deciding not to use the video screen for any of them, but leaving the decision in the hands of Martínez Munuera. The first was a penalty given to Vinicius, who took a light touch from Llorente after a dazzling run into the box (one of many) just as the Madrid man was about to shoot, leading to him mis-hitting his effort. For me it was a penalty, but there are many who are convinced the replays show no contact.
Two even more controversial decisions
That was the start of the second half, and the penalty (converted by Ramos) was the prize for the only player who had managed to stand out on the pitch: Vinicius, whose direct, insistent running was a constant danger for Real Sociedad. But any controversy over the penalty decision was multiplied a hundred-fold in two bits of play around the 70 minute mark. First, a goal from Januzaj, with a low shot Courtois couldn't get to. But Merino was in the line of sight of the keep and the assistant referee raised his flag for offside and Estrada chalked the goal off and waited for the decision from the VAR, who confirmed the call. Directly after, a cross to Benzema, who controlled the ball with his shoulder (for some, the arm) and scored. From 1-1 to 0-2 in an instant.
I thought the first and third decisions were the right ones; the second was borderline. But all three are the kind of decision no referee likes to have to make, and together, they put Real Madrid top of the table, thanks to the head-to-head results against Barcelona, which is how LaLiga decides a 'photo finish', and unleashed a torrent of complaints. Other news from the game (the return of James, the exhibition from Vinicius and the injury to Ramos, which tilted the match in favour of Real Sociedad) have been relegated to the second stage. Today, more than ever, it's clear that VAR hasn't sorted out the controversies in football, but, in fact, in certain cases, made them worse. And this is one of those cases, a right old mess.