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VAR Got It Right, In The Most Confusing Way Possible

Photo: Shaun Botterill (Getty Images)

What the fuck was that?

At the end of the wildest game of the season, with Tottenham Hotspur clinging to an away goal-aided aggregate win for a spot in the Champions League semi-finals, Manchester City seemed to score a legendary goal to nip by their Premier League counterparts into the final four of the competition. Sergio Agüero collected the ball off an errant Christian Eriksen back-pass, laid it off to Raheem Sterling, who collected his hat trick with a deflected goal past Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris:

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It seemed like the 5-3 (5-4 agg.) victory was City’s, but then came everyone’s favorite talking point: Video Assistant Referee, or VAR.

Agüero was clearly offside, though that would not matter if it were just from Eriksen’s back-pass:

However, because the ball hits City’s Bernardo Silva on the way through, it was deemed that Agüero was in fact offside, according to the letter of the law. Here it is in slow-motion:

The law dictates that any touch by a teammate would make Agüero offside in this instance:

A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play or
  • interfering with an opponent or
  • gaining an advantage by being in that position”

Because the ball hit Silva on its way to Agüero (and it’s likely that it wouldn’t have found its way to the open space in front of the Argentine without the deflection), the VAR decision is objectively correct.

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Here’s one of the many problems with VAR, though: how the hell is anyone supposed to know that without an explanation? City fans will likely feel screwed here, because in live time, it sure looked like Eriksen had fucked it all up for Spurs. The TNT commentators didn’t explain it either, which probably left the viewing audience either seething or rushing to Google for answers.

It’s only with the aid of a billion replays and a dive into the FIFA rule book that one can begin to figure out what exactly happened. That both this and Fernando Llorente’s tie-deciding goal in the 73rd minute had to go to VAR, making the two biggest moments of one of the wildest matches ever exercises in staring at a slomo replay of some dumb little thing while thumbing through a copy of the laws of the game, is just an added turd on top of VAR’s shit sundae.

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Either way, after a game that saw four goals in the first 11 minutes, a fifth in the 21st, and two more in the second half, Spurs will be worshiping our new replay robot overlord, while City will be cursing the vagueness of the offside law, the cruelest god in all of soccer.

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