Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson praised the video assistant referee system after its debut in English competitive football following initial confusion around Brighton’s winning goal.
Brighton’s Glenn Murray scored a late winner in the home side’s 2-1 FA Cup third-round defeat of Palace on Monday but, with suggestions of handball, there was confusion among players, fans at the ground and TV viewers over whether VAR had had any influence on the decision.
According to Hodgson and Brighton manager Chris Hughton, match referee Andre Marriner had been in contact with fellow official Neil Swarbrick, working with VAR from a London studio, about the goal.
That Marriner did not indicate as such or use the pitchside VAR monitors contributed to the confusion, and Hodgson said: “We had suspicions. The people close to it seemed to be incensed, and from our angle it looks as if he’s guided the ball in with his arm.
“You’ve got to congratulate the system: when you watch it lots of times like they’ve been able to do, from different angles, it would have been very harsh (to disallow it).
“It was a genuine goal, and the referee was helped by the fact he had Swarbrick in the VAR studio making a judgement that’d help him out, so I have no complaints.”
Hughton said he was “under the impression that VAR was used. That’s what I am led to believe: that it was used and there was not a decision to be made. At the time I wasn’t aware some thought it was handball.”
The VAR system is currently being trialled in Italy and Germany and was employed for the first time in an official game in Britain during the international friendly between England and Germany in November, when it was not called on.
Criticised by some fans for slowing the game down, it is used for “clear and obvious errors” relating to goals, penalty decisions, straight red cards or mistaken identity for red or yellow cards.
The VAR automatically checks every relevant incident and informs the referee if necessary. The referee has the power to change the original decision based on new information provided by the VAR or watch a replay on the side of the pitch.
Marriner did not feel the need to consult the pitchside monitor after Murray’s goal as he felt it was legitimate. The system allows for dialogue between the on-pitch referee and the VAR without a formal review.
Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: “So VAR so good.”
But former Palace forward Mark Bright said the referee should have looked into the incident more carefully. “The debate in the boardroom is did the ball or did it not touch Glenn Murray’s arm before it went into the net?” he tweeted.
“Clearly & Obviously missed? Should have been viewed #VAR.”