Getty Images

Double Column: Why the VAR was right and wrong, and who’s to blame

2 Comments

The controversy surrounding the use of VAR at the Women’s World Cup took a new turn on Monday, as two decisions helped give France a 1-0 win over Nigeria, ensuring the European nation finished atop Group A.

For those who haven’t seen it, referee Melissa Borjas went to the video monitor to take a second look twice during the match. First, when Ngozi Ebere fouled Viviane Asseyi in the penalty box, leading to a penalty kick, and the second time when Nigeria’s 18-year-old goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie hopped off her line by a foot, VAR alerted Borjas to award a retake.

PST writers Dan Karell and Kyle Bonn both have opinions, and we figured this was a good forum to get their ideas off their mind.


Dan Karell

In my opinion, VAR did its job correctly. The problem wasn’t with VAR, or even the rules. It was with the referee, and how she interpreted those rules.

The original intent for VAR was to be used to fix clear and obvious mistakes missed by the referees, especially the center referee. This includes many examples, such as an obvious hand-ball in the box, the ball crossing the goalline, violent conduct away from the ball, or cases of mistaken identity with cards to players.

I don’t believe that either situation, the original penalty kick and the retake, were “clear and obvious” mistakes that were missed by the ref. Yes, was Asseyi probably fouled in the box by Eberi? Probably. But Asseyi also got to the ball first and could have taken a first-time strike. While that may have been a foul if it had happened at midfield, and therefore was in theory correctly called, you’ve got the referee and at least one assistant looking right at the play. If the referee decides to play on, then play on.

For the second, it was even more egregious. The new rules from the International Football Association Board states that goalkeepers now only need to have one foot on the line on penalty kicks, as most goalkeepers like to creep up and step off the line to shorten the distance to making a save. Of course, in the men’s game, this rule came to pass because almost no goalkeepers kept both feet on the line like they were supposed to. Like speed limit laws, it’s a law on paper but it’s almost never enforced unless there’s an serious issue, like someone driving 20 or more miles per hour over the speed limit. Most referees let them get away with it.

In this case, the referee, and two assistants, should have seen Nnadozie encroaching off her line. They also should have seen the France players encroaching into the box before Wendie Renard took the PK, as former U.S. Men’s National Team striker Herculez Gomez pointed out.

It even happened on the retake! Yet only Nnadozie was punished. Again, while Nnadozie was at fault, it shouldn’t have been a “clear and obvious” mistake by the referee. Nnadozie didn’t make contact with the ball as Renard’s first strike caromed off the post, and if Nnadozie somehow got into the head of Renard by stepping one foot off the line, then honestly, that’s on Renard.

In my opinion, while VAR was used correctly, it wasn’t in the spirit of the rule, why the system was put in in the first place. Both situations could have been judged by the referee in the middle. and if referees are now delaying all judgement to the VAR, they lose all authority from players for regular foul calls, throw-ins, or any basic decision.


Kyle Bonn

Here’s the thing about VAR: when used correctly – which it has been on plenty of occasions – it has made the game better 100% of the time. It was never going to be perfect the first time around, as no sport has implemented a replay system with pinpoint accuracy in its first go. The replay system in soccer works and works well, now it’s time for the sport to adjust to the issues which have been presented.

There have been three issues most frequently coming to light, two of which were predictable. The problems many people could see coming were the abrupt and awkward stoppages of play leading to long periods of waiting, and the unclear definition of “clear and obvious error” leading to occasional poor application of the system. Those two issues deserve their own column and can be addressed by analyzing early usage of the system and tweaking its logistical flow to streamline the process.

Thirdly, the system has brought to light certain rules that to the naked eye were never a problem as referees had discretion on how and when to issue punishment, but under replay scrutiny, everything must now be black and white. Do not blame the replay system for this deficiency – the rules were always the problem, the game just didn’t care to make the adjustments, leaving the referees to do that on the field instead. Now, with the rules out of the referees hands, the rules must change.

Obviously the handball rule needs serious correction, and that could take years to parse out. One rule that could be effortlessly edited to fit the new VAR universe is the goalkeeper’s positioning when defending a penalty, one that has become a clear hole in the rule book, no more evident than in the U-20 World Cup and now the Women’s World Cup. New Zealand was booted from the U-20 tournament in a penalty shootout that saw one of their saves ruled a retake after Michael Woud was judged harshly for coming off his line. Now, as Daniel eloquently outlined earlier, the Women’s World Cup suffers.

The laws of the game admitted fault, editing the rule slightly to allow goalkeepers to have one foot on the line rather than two, but this change has done little to fix the problem. Hopefully, a subsequent change will come soon to allow goalkeepers the ability to move in a natural manner while not gaining an advantage on the effort.

Do not blame VAR for the issues built into the game of soccer that human referees were in the past able to mask with common sense no longer afforded to them in a replay world. With the ability to scrutinize millimeters of play using video replay, it’s impossible for a referee to allow minor infractions for the betterment of the game. The game itself must adjust, and should that happen, VAR will be a fabulous addition to the game, but until then, fans, players, and coaches will be forced to swallow more cruel moments like we’ve seen of late, and the growing pains will continue to be noticeable.

Messi, Griezmann, Suarez turn on style with stunning goals in Barcelona win

Barcelona La Liga
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Barcelona are still in the La Liga title race. Just.

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez combined to score stunning goals in a 4-1 win for Barcelona at high-flying Villarreal on Sunday.

Barcelona’s win means they are now four points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race with five games to go, as Real beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 earlier on Sunday.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

Barcelona took the lead as Messi crossed for Griezmann and he didn’t convert his clever flick but Pau Torres put the ball into this own net.

Villarreal then equalized as Samuel Chukwueze launched a counter which Gerardo Moreno finished off after Santo Cazorla’s shot was saved.

Then Barcelona kicked on.

Suarez made it 2-1 with a stunner as Messi set him up and then Griezmann turned on the magic as Messi grabbed another assist.

Another Barcelona attack saw Suarez find Messi on the edge of the box and the Barcelona legend set up Griezmann with a delicious back heel flick.

The French striker, who was criticized by his manager Quique Setien in recent weeks, then clipped home a majestic chip to put Barcelona 3-1 up at El Madrigal.

Ansu Fati scored late on to seal the win as Messi hit the crossbar and scored another which was chalked off via VAR, as Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the final weeks of the La Liga season.

Barca aren’t giving up their La Liga title without a fight and they looked in superb form ahead of the Champions League resumption in August.

Tottenham – Everton preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

Tottenham - Everton
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham – Everton is an intriguing clash on Monday (start time, 3pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) between teams who are separated by just one point and one place in the table but have been heading in very different directions since new managers arrived midseason.

TOTTENHAM – EVERTON STREAM LIVE

Spurs lost last time out at Sheffield United in very controversial fashion as Jose Mourinho now has a very tough task to guide them back to the Premier League ahead of the final six games of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti has Everton surging as they have lost just three of his 14 Premier League games in charge and those defeats came at Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Tottenham – Everton is a game both teams will go all out to win in their pursuit of European action and this should be a beauty.


Team news

Tottenham may have Dele Alli available, as he suffered a slight hamstring injury after coming on as a sub in their defeat at Sheffield United. Aside from that Japhet Tanganga will return to training next week.

Everton should have Richarlison back fit as the Brazilian suffered a knock in their win against Leicester City.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on Carlo Ancelotti: “I think everyone in football admires Carlo as a coach and as a person. If you don’t know him as a person, at least you know him as a coach. It’s not because I like him so much as a person that I’m going to say the obvious, which is: he’s one of the top managers in the world of the last two decades and of course now. I think it’s a privilege for the Premier League to have Carlo back, it’s a privilege for Everton to have Carlo as manager, or head coach, whatever way you want to call him.”

Carlo Ancelotti on teenager attacker Anthony Gordon: “He is doing really well and is ready to play for Everton, no doubt. He improved in the past six months and how he is playing [in training and games] gives me a lot of confidence and trust in him. He is a player with personality. You can find a lot of players with quality, but you have to show strong personality. In football, you need players with personality and character. Players who are not afraid to make decisions. Anthony is one of these. He is ready to be with us and part of what we are doing.”

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Tottenham (+107) are the slight favorites but this should be a very tight game as Everton (+265) have been in really good form and look solid defensively. The value here is in a win for Everton or a tie (+250) in north London.

Prediction

Tottenham basically have to win all of their remaining games to have a chance of finishing fifth and a potential Champions League spot. Mourinho’s side won’t really want to be in the Europa League next season so if they don’t win here, what do they do? Everton would be delighted to be in the Europa League and I could see the Toffees edging this, especially if Richarlison is fit. I’m going for Tottenham 1-2 Everton.

Heroic Southampton stun Man City

Leave a comment

Southampton beat Manchester City 1-0 thanks to a heroic defensive display and a Che Adams wondergoal at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Adams lobbed home from over 40 yards out in the first half to score his first Premier League and Southampton goal in style and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side dug deep and held off wave after wave of Man City attack, as Pep Guardiola’s side followed up their 4-0 demolition of Liverpool by losing in disappointing fashion.

With the win Southampton move up to 13th in the table and have 43 points as they are three points off ninth, while Man City stay in second on 66 points and they are now 23 points behind Premier League champions Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Saints can defend: They had a few slices of luck but Saints’ defensive unit stood tall and they deserved this marquee win. Center backs Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens were particularly brilliant, throwing themselves in the way of everything and leading by example. Full backs Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand covered so much ground, Alex McCarthy made a string of fine saves and Oriol Romeu in front of them shielded the back four superbly. What a result for Hasenhuttl as his project at Saints is kicking on very nicely since the restart. It take a lot to come back from the start they had this season (ahem, 9-0 defeat to Leicester) but the spirit is good and the spine of this team is solid. With Ings, Redmond and others in attack, Saints could be a top 10 team next season.

2. Man City leggy: You can forgive City for this win. They were bright and went close on several occasions but let’s not forget, they tore Liverpool apart on Thursday and had just over 48 hours rest before this game. Southampton had a week of rest and a week to prepare. It showed. Man City had an off day and just kind of ran out of ideas. That dominate the game but they lost and that has happened to them a few times this season (Norwich away, Chelsea away) and that is why they are so far behind Liverpool.

3. Priority is FA Cup, Champions League: Pep Guardiola clearly wants to focus on winning the FA Cup and the Champions League and that is fine. People will point to Guardiola losing three consecutive league games away from home for the first time in his career as a sign that Man City are in decline, but they lost at Man United and Chelsea and luck wasn’t on their side at Southampton. Let’s get some perspective here. Man City proved their point by hammering Liverpool 4-0 on Thursday and they will be back better next season. The changes Pep made for this game underlines that Man City’s head is elsewhere. They are going to finish second in the Premier League so why not focus on winning more trophies.

Man of the Match

Jan Bednarek – Basically every Saints player deserved this but I’m going for Bednarek, closely followed by Stephens, McCarthy and Ings. The spine of this Saints team worked so hard to preserve their early lead and they actually looked dangerous on their rare forays forward. What a win and win a defender Bednarek has become, as the ‘Polish Maldini’ continues to improve from a positional point of view.


The first real chance of the game arrived for Southampton and they took it in some style.

Oleksandr Zinchenko gave the ball away and Adams lobbed Ederson from 40 yards out to score his first Premier League goal in style as his teammates mobbed him.

Gabriel Jesus then almost finished at the back post as Man City kicked on after falling behind.

Raheem Sterling then sent in a wonderful cross to the center of the goal which almost found Jesus but Ings cleared away from danger. Sterling was then denied by Alex McCarthy, then Fernandinho hit the post and McCarthy denied David Silva as Man City came roaring back.

McCarthy then denied Mahrez at the near post as Man City continued to press for an equalizer, while Nathan Redmond had a shot which Ederson saved. Before the break Southampton settled themselves and Ings volleyed over after a great ball from Kyle Walker-Peters.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the start of the second half Jesus flicked a header from a corner just wide as Man City continued to create chances.

McCarthy then denied Jesus’ header and Stephens hacked away as Southampton were under severe pressure with McCarthy then denying David Silva.

Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden came on for the final 30 minutes as Man City cranked through the gears with James Ward-Prowse blocking a goalbound Bernardo Silva shot. Jesus had another header saved by McCarthy as Saints had a brief break which saw Adams close down Ederson who cleared.

Substitute Shane Long ran in on goal and that led to Stuart Armstrong having a shot on goal which Ederson saved brilliantly down low.

Late on Man City chucked everything at Southampton but some heroic defending sealed a huge win for Hasenhuttl’s side.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

4 Comments

The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the upcoming matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues for the most part, with the venues for a handful of games TBC due to UK government and police concerns.

The full TV schedule for the games this month are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 22, as we will release the dates and times for the final matchweek of the 2019-20 season when they become available.


Premier League: How to watch, schedule in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City 0-1 Brighton
Saturday, July 4: Leicester 3-0 Crystal Palace
Saturday, July 4: Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
Saturday, July 4: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Sunday, July 5: Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Sunday, July 5: Southampton 1-0 Man City
Monday, July 6: Tottenham v. Everton

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Watford v. Norwich City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal v. Leicester City, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Man City v. Newcastle United, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham v. Burnley, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Everton v. Southampton, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa v. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m. ET

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City v. West Ham, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Watford v. Newcastle United, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool v. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Brighton v. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Wolves v. Everton, 7 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham v. Arsenal, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth v. Leicester City, 2 p.m. ET
Monday, July 13: Man United v. Southampton, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 36

Tuesday, July 14: Chelsea v. Norwich, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Burnley v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Man City v. Bournemouth, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Newcastle v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Arsenal v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Everton v. Aston Villa, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Leicester v Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Crystal Palace v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Southampton v. Brighton, 3:15 p.m. ET
Friday, July 17: West Ham v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 37

Saturday, July 18: Norwich City v. Burnley, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Bournemouth v. Southampton, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Tottenham v. Leicester, 11 a.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Brighton v. Newcastle, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Sheffield United v. Everton, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Wolves v. Crystal Palace, 3:15 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Watford v. Man City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Aston Villa v. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Man United v. West Ham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Liverpool v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. ET