Daniel Arzani's VAR penalty debacle forgotten after Riley McGree's wonder goal

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One of the best A-League goals of all time pushed aside a decision that likely cost Melbourne City a grand final spot

An absolutely unbelievable narrative evolved at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night. Newcastle went from wooden spoon winners to grand final participants in 12 months after a ridiculous scorpion kick goal from Jets youngster Riley McGree, that has gone viral worldwide.

But it's a story that likely never should have been.

Melbourne City took the lead against the run of play through Bruno Fornaroli early in the first half and in the 23rd minute, the Uruguayan should have had the opportunity to extend their lead to two goals from the spot.

Say what you like about Daniel Arzani having a reputation for going down 'easy', the City whizkid was fouled by Jets defender John Koutroumbis in the box and a penalty should have been awarded by referee Shaun Evans.

Despite the fact Arzani was moving away from goal, Koutroumbis carelessly kicked out at the winger, caught the 19-year-old's legs, and committed a foul.

 

 

It may have been what people call a 'soft' penalty, but there was needless contact from the Jets defender and there is no doubt what the decision should have been.

The most confusing aspect is the decision-making process by Evans and the Video Assistant Referee following the 'foul'.

It's reasonable to assume Evans may have believed Arzani took a dive and waving away the appeals was the right call. In this case, the talented youngster should have been incorrectly shown a yellow card for simulation.

However, it is most likely that Evans thought there was minimal or no contact on Arzani and the challenge by Koutroumbis didn't constitute a foul.

Enter VAR - the decision-making assistant brought in to highlight 'clear and obvious errors' made by referees during the game.

But what is a 'clear and obvious error'? How is the severity level of a referee's mistake judged? At what level is a decision okay to be overturned by a referee after video intervention?

VAR operator Chris Beath made the right call to flag the incident during the next stoppage of play. But wouldn't we love to hear the conversation about the decision between Beath and Evans?

Evans clearly decided based on Beath's verbal summation that the original call he made was not a 'clear and obvious error'. We must also remember referees are under pressure to not let VAR interrupt matches for too long if they can avoid it.

Should Evans have gone to view the flagged incident again on the sideline television? Would he have changed the decision upon viewing it again?

City manager Warren Joyce wouldn't comment on the decision in his post-match press conference but made it clear it was 'obvious' what call should have been made.

It would be forgivable if VAR didn't exist and Evans simply made the wrong decision - referees are human and make mistakes.

But the whole point of the VAR is to ensure refereeing mistakes don't have a significant effect on the result of matches.

And at the end of the day Melbourne City's best-ever campaign comes to an unceremonious demise. After a gruelling pre-season under Joyce, 29 league matches including finals and the opportunity to win an A-League championship, City's players will now be making holiday plans.

VAR will likely be fine-tuned and the system will improve over the coming years. But that's no consolation for Melbourne City.

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