Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP

VAR problems causing major headache for Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) Accusations of manipulation and incompetence have dogged the Bundesliga’s trial of the video assistant referee this season, forcing the German soccer federation to act quickly to pacify angry team officials.

The DFB dismissed Hellmut Krug as head of its VAR project this week after tabloid claims he influenced two key decisions in a game between Schalke, his hometown club, and visiting Wolfsburg on Oct. 28.

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Lutz Michael Froehlich, the head of the federation’s refereeing department, will take over.

Krug and Marco Fritz, the video assistant operating in Cologne that day last month, denied the allegations, and the DFB said it was impossible for supervisors to intervene during games. But the federation evidently felt a fresh start was needed after weeks of controversy since VAR started this season.

“The pilot phase of the video assistant has relentlessly exposed problems that have long existed in some areas and must now be finally resolved,” league president Reinhard Rauball said on Tuesday.

VAR was supposed to help referees avoid mistakes and ensure fairness in games, but even at the start there were technical problems that hindered video assistants’ ability to make the right calls in Cologne, where they sit for games.

Video assistants were forced to make offside decisions without the aid of computer-generated lines because of a flaw in the technology.

Not all video-assisted decisions have been clear-cut and there have been other controversies, too. Cologne felt particularly aggrieved over a goal scored by Borussia Dortmund in their game in September, awarded after video consultation despite referee Felix Brych blowing his whistle before the ball crossed the line – signaling a break in play.

Not using VAR has also led to anger and frustration. Stuttgart was the victim last Saturday, when Dzenis Burnic was sent off early in its 3-1 loss in Hamburg with his second yellow card. Referee Guido Winkmann acknowledged after the game that it was unjust decision.

[ MORE: Revs to hire Friedel ]

“It’s a game-deciding decision after 12 minutes that’s totally false,” said Stuttgart coach Hannes Wolf, who blasted the video assistant’s inability to get involved. “The person in Cologne can’t say anything. I find that ridiculous, that there’s someone there professionally who’s not allowed say anything. It doesn’t make any sense.”

At the start of the season, the DFB said the technology was only to be used “when the referee on the pitch has made a clear wrong decision or missed a decisive incident” around goals scored, penalties or free kicks, or during substitutions.

Kicker magazine, however, reported that the federation wrote on Oct. 25 to the clubs saying VAR had also been used in other instances since the fifth round of games, a so-called “corrective course” over which the clubs had not been informed.

“The whole communication from the DFB is catastrophic at the moment,” Borussia Moenchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl said. “If you have a test phase and want to change the whole system, then that’s fair enough. But everyone should also know about it.”

Fans are also upset, frustrated by the breaks in games while referees consult monitors on the sidelines, then by goals reversed after celebrations, or other decisions going against their teams – even when the decisions are technically correct.

The DFB has had other problems with its referees, too. Manuel Graefe was reprimanded last week for making allegations of nepotism and a lack of transparency against Krug and Herbert Fandel, the chairman of the referees committee, when it came to selection for games.

“The two of them threw together the referee list how they wanted it,” Graefe told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper in August.

Graefe stuck to his position last month, saying in a personal statement that he wanted more “justice and transparency” and that “the influence of Herbert Fandel and Hellmut Krug unfortunately still means the opposite.”

Now that Krug has been removed, the DFB hopes the attention will return to the soccer, though it will need to sort out the problems affecting VAR before that happens.

“Every product is only as good as how it is processed and communicated,” former referee Markus Merk said.

VIDEO: Sadio Mane scores screamer for Liverpool v. Saints

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Sadio Mane has started the season in sensational fashion.

After scoring twice for Liverpool in their Super Cup final win against Chelsea on Wednesday, Mane curled home a stunning shot right on half time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

Mane was playing against his former club and after Southampton had created the best chances, it was a huge boost for Liverpool to go in ahead at the break.

Click play on the video below to see Mane open the scoring in style.

Emery impressed with versatile Ceballos as Arsenal stays perfect

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Despite the score line, Unai Emery can be fairly happy with Arsenal’s performance in a 2-1 defeat of Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

On midfielder Dani Ceballos, though, Emery will be very pleased.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley ]

The Real Madrid loanee was the easy Man of the Match, his silky skill on the ball and quality industry endearing himself to Arsenal faithful. From Football.London:

“It’s to use his quality in the best position in our team. I spoke with him before coming here, it’s to play as an eight and a No.10. He started like a 10 but changed with Willock. He can feel better on the pitch.”

Emery will be less than pleased with his defense, who allowed a goal to early season Golden Boot candidate Ashley Barnes.

“We won in our moments we did the difference for 2-1. A lot of moments we couldn’t impose our gameplan because they pushed and their gameplan was a struggle for us.”

Watch Live: Saints v. Liverpool headlines five PL games

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Five Premier League games are coming up at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, as the second Matchweek of the new campaign comes roaring at us.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Southampton and Liverpool clash at St Mary’s in the main game at 10 a.m. ET, while two new boys have their first home games back in the PL.

Aston Villa host Bournemouth at Villa Park, while Norwich host Newcastle at Carrow Road. Elsewhere, Everton host Watford and West Ham travel to Brighton.

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You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Southampton v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Bournemouth – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Everton v. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Newcastle – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Classy Arsenal beat Burnley

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Arsenal beat Burnley 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to make it two wins from two to start the new season. It is the first time in 10 years Arsenal have won their opening two games of a Premier League season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

The Gunners took the lead early on through Alexandre Lacazette but a stubborn Burnley wouldn’t go away and Ashley Barnes equalized in a somewhat fortuitous manner before the break.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner as Dani Ceballos dazzled on his full debut in the Premier League.

Up next for the Gunners is a trip to Liverpool followed by a north London derby against Tottenham. It is then we will see just how good this Gunners side really is.


3 things we learned

1. Ceballos is the real deal: The Spanish midfielder worked so hard defensively and oozed class on the ball. He is the replacement for Aaron Ramsey and was absolutely sensational. If he keeps playing like this, Arsenal may not be able to afford to buy him permanently next summer…

2. Defensive issues remain: There were a few shaky moments at the back for the Gunners. David Luiz‘s first start saw him take a few risks on the ball, while Bernd Leno flapped at a few crosses. Arsenal looked better defensively with Guendouzi in front of the defense, but they are far from being a solid outfit.

3. Burnley were Burnley: Sean Dyche‘s side didn’t have much of the ball but they created dangerous chances from set pieces and as long as they were only one-goal down, they were always a threat.

Man of the Match: Dani Ceballos – He will become a firm fans favorite at the Emirates Stadium. Silky on the ball, the Spaniard dug deep defensively and dictated the tempo of the game. A fine home PL debut for the Real Madrid loanee, who whipped in the corner for Lacazette’s goal and then won the ball back to create Aubameyang’s goal.


Arsenal were rampant early on and after Lacazette’s header was denied by Nick Pope, the French striker wriggled free from the resulting corner and made it 1-0.

Ashley Barnes flashed an effort just wide soon after as Burnley responded well to going behind with several high balls into the Arsenal box causing the Gunners defense problems.

Before the break Ceballos, who was running the show, orchestrated a fine counter attack which ended in Pope denying Matteo Guendouzi. Moments later Burnley were level as Dwight McNeil‘s deflected shot found Barnes and he bundled the ball home under pressure from Guendouzi to equalize against the run of play.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Arsenal thought they’d retaken the lead right on half time but Nacho Monreal was flagged for offside as he pulled the ball back for Reiss Nelson to smash home. VAR checked the decision and no goal was given.

Nicolas Pepe came on at half time as Arsenal cranked through in the second half, with the home side dominating the play and Pope making several saves.

Ceballos, once again, was the heart of their game-winning goal as he won the ball back in a dangerous area and Aubameyang raced towards goal before curling home at the near post.