An image is worth a thousand words

Offside interference is one of the most difficult actions in football to call: a player who is offside and whose clear intention is not to get involved in a passage of play due to his position but who in the eyes of the referee has interfered with the move or obstructed the line of sight of the opposition goalkeeper or another player. Fortune has dictated that Real Madrid have been the beneficiaries of two instances of this in their past two games: on Thursday when Valencia’s Maxi Gómez was adjudged to have interfered in Rodrigo’s first half strike and on Sunday in Anoeta when Adnan Janujaz’s goal was ruled out. Coincidence also saw Barcelona’s Gerard Piqué allude to a VAR conspiracy theory after his side’s goalless draw at Sevilla after the Gómez-Rodrigo disallowed goal.

Those who back such a theory have had plenty of evidence presented to them in Anoeta: the penalty awarded to Madrid for Diego Llorente’s challenge on Vinicius and Karim Benzema’s goal, where the Frenchman appeared to control the ball with his arm. For supporters of Real Sociedad, Barcelona and for many others as well – Madridismo is Spain’s second official religion but anti-Madridismo is its third – Janujaz’s disallowed goal is an additional invitation for arch-eyebrowed suspicion when combined with the other two incidents. All three put together and occurring in the very game that handed Zinedine Zidane’s side leadership of the Liga table at Barcelona’s expense give ample ammunition to those who wish to take aim at the work of match officials overseeing Real Madrid games.

Janujaz disallowed goal raises VAR doubts

There are people who believe in their convictions in good faith of course. If the replays available had showed the image published in today’s edition of AS, which demonstrates that Mikel Merino is in Thibaut Courtois’ line of sight when Janujaz unleashes his shot, perhaps the controversy would have been dampened down. But they didn’t and this image that discredits the main piece of evidence in the case was not circulated. It is a question that serves to raise a doubt over the use of VAR. The team of officials in the VAR room have access to (or at least that is the theory) every replay from every camera in the stadium, but the fans do not: they are only privy to what passes through the sieve of the broadcaster. And that leads to the fomentation of misunderstandings.