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Report: Premier League ‘happy’ with Saturday VAR trials

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Video Assistant Referee was used behind the scenes in five Saturday kickoffs in the Premier League, with the BBC reporting that the results were positive.

[ MORE: What did we learn on Saturday? ]

Five decisions went under the proverbial microscope in the quintet of 10 a.m. ET matches, though only one would’ve been overturned had the VAR been in touch with the on-field officials.

That was a Leroy Sane goal ruled no good for offside, as the Man City man was reportedly deemed just onside in what could’ve been a four-goal win over Fulham. It went 3-0 to the champions.

Four other decisions, including an awarded penalty to Bournemouth, were correctly given and would not have been overturned by VAR.

VAR will be in play for the FA Cup and League Cup this seasons in all matches at Premier League stadia.

Premier League to test VAR with this weekend’s matches

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The Premier League took some flak when it announced this past summer the league would not implement Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) this coming season, instead deciding to “continue testing” the technology.

That testing will progress this coming weekend, with the league implementing VAR in a number of matches. This testing will not actually affect the play on the field, but VAR booths and referees will act as if they are part of the crew, making calls and using booth replay without any actual contact to the refereeing crew on the field.

The games to be used for testing are Cardiff City’s trip to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal’s visit to Newcastle United, Manchester City against Fulham at the Etihad, and Crystal Palace’s road test at Huddersfield Town.

The Telegraph was the first to report the new phase of testing, and their report states the main focus of the multi-match testing is to make sure the VAR hub – located at Stockley Park just north of Heathrow Airport – can handle a number of matches at the same time.

UEFA is also in the same boat, hoping to implement VAR in next year’s Champions League. “For me, VAR is not completely clear, but we also know that there’s no way back anymore,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin last week. “Technology will come sooner or later. The plan for now is to use it from the next season.”

It will always take some time for referees to gain experience using the technology and how best to make use of it during live matchday situations, that has been true for every sport that has implemented some form of replay in recent years. In addition, expecting it to completely eliminate controversy from the game is simply unrealistic. However, this testing will only lessen the learning curve necessary for officials to being use next season, and it’s a positive development to see it used in mock situations in preparation for the real thing.

VAR at the World Cup cemented its place in our soccer brains

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Feel how you will about Video Assistant Referee, but this summer’s World Cup changed how we feel when we watch club soccer.

That’s not a slight or a compliment to the tournament, which was in fact quite amazing, but rather a deep dive into that word: Feel.

V-A-R, you guys.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

While review wasn’t perfect at the World Cup in Russia — cough, Aleksandar Mitrovic versus Switzerland, cough — it cut down on red cards and was a part of the most exciting tournament in some time (perhaps ever).

And on opening weekend in the Premier League it was hard to not find yourself, for better or worse, thinking that the lack of video review played a role in some clubs earning and losing valuable points (They’re worth the same in August as they are in April, you know?).

Consider:

— Saints forward Danny Ings nearly earned a winning debut on his homecoming, only for the should-be penalty call to not arrive at St. Mary’s.

Mamadou Sakho takes down Fulham’s Andre Schurrle in the box, no PK, with Crystal Palace leading 1-0 en route to a 2-0 win over the Cottagers.

Moussa Sissoko stepping on the leg of Kenedy before halftime of Spurs’ 2-1 win at Newcastle (in front of referee Martin Atkinson for what it’s worth).

This wasn’t an unusual weekend for controversial plays at all, and certainly soccer has survived and thrived for years with plenty of human error.

But after a World Cup with an unusually low number of red cards — presumably because players knew there was an eye in the sky — and high amount of correctly awarded penalties, it’s going to take some time to get used to human error again.

That’s fine. Again, we’ve done it this way for years and can continue to do so for a long, long time. But it’s going to be interesting to see if we ever feel like the genie is back in the bottle.

VAR paves way for Marseille’s 4-0 victory in season opener

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PARIS (AP) Marseille crushed Toulouse 4-0 on Friday as the French league season opened with a video assistant refereeing (VAR) decision leading to the first goal.

Attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet scored in each half, with his penalty on the stroke of halftime awarded after a video review. Striker Valere Germain added a third goal, while winger Florian Thauvin struck two minutes into injury time.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Leicester City ]

Alerted by VAR officials that defender Kelvin Amian had blocked a cross with his hand, Ruddy Buquet checked the images. Having initially signaled a corner, the referee changed his mind and pointed to the spot.

Payet, who missed France’s World Cup title victory last month after being injured in the Europa League final, sent goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet the wrong way.

He netted again in the 62nd minute with a neat volley after Reynet had blocked Bouna Sarr’s angled shot.

“The ball came to me quickly, I just tried to guide it in,” Payet told Canal Plus television. “The end of last season was quite hard for me … so I just want to enjoy myself and start the season well.”

Payet completely controlled the game and sent Germain clean through with a defense-splitting pass in the 75th minute but Reynet saved well.

Payet got an ovation from the Stade Velodrome crowd when he was replaced by Thauvin – a member of France’s World Cup squad – in the 82nd minute.

Germain then expertly controlled midfielder Morgan Sanson’s pass and curled the ball past Reynet in the 89th minute before Thauvin skillfully flicked the ball up with his heel and slotted in from close range to complete the rout.

Marseille finished fourth last season and missed out on a Champions League playoff spot by one point.

Jerome Pugmire is at http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Why VAR is breakout star of 2018 World Cup

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VAR will still be the breakout star of the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Despite many lambasting its use during Portugal’s draw with Iran and Spain’s draw with Morocco on Monday, the simultaneous, rapid, VAR use proved why it has been a roaring success in this tournament.

The fact that so many decision were made via the video technology in such a short space of time, and getting the correct calls right on each occasion, proved how valuable it is.

Going into this tournament, we had the horrors of the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2017/18 FA Cup in our minds. From huge delays to decisions being reviewed and then incorrectly overturned, it threatened to be a nightmare this summer.

There have been no such problems so far. Touch wood.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

After the final two Group B games on Monday, 15 official decisions had been made by VAR during the 2018 World Cup. All 15 were correct.

The only problem that remains with VAR is when and where to use the technology. It is still down to the opinion of VAR officials in the booth as to whether or not there is a “clear and obvious” mistake with one of the on-field decisions. But there’s no doubt the technology is forcing defenders to change the way they try and block opponents, especially in the box.

A record 19 penalty kicks have now been awarded in the group stage of the tournament, and the likes of England and Serbia can even feel aggrieved that they haven’t been handed even more penalty kicks after their players were manhandled in the box.

Four years ago in Brazil just 13 penalty kicks were awarded in the entire tournament and, halfway through the 2018 tournament, it appears we will be heading towards at least 30-35 penalty kicks being awarded this time.

VAR’s arrival has led to extra scrutiny of the “dark arts” of defending and that is a great thing. There is, overall, more consistency with decisions and we have seen less glaring mistakes from officials in this competition. There’s no doubt about that and that, again, is a huge plus for this tournament compared to incidents like Frank Lampard‘s infamous disallowed goal in 2010 and many other instances which have marred tournaments.

The main thing which has been so pleasing about VAR at this World Cup is the speed with which it has been used.

Referees are having quick glances at replays before making their minds up and the tempo of games really hasn’t been impacted at all.

The only time where it has perhaps been dragged out a little too much was for the video analysis of Ronaldo’s elbow against Iran which was adjudged to only be worthy of a yellow card.

Nothing is perfect but VAR has proved it can be extremely useful with so much on the line.

It still needs to be tweaked. Players still need to stop calling for it at every opportunity. Fans must get use to waiting on a decision from the officials before properly losing the plot in celebration.

But, overall, there’s no doubting that VAR has worked better than anybody expected at this World Cup.

That is why it’s the breakout star.

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