The referee’s decision in regard to Edinson Cavani’s disallowed goal for Manchester United against Spurs yesterday has been deemed a disgrace by one of England’s top football journalists, The Times’ Henry Winter.
Ultimately, United got the three points but the game could easily have been soured by the decision, flagged by the VAR Craig Pawson when Son Heung-Min threw himself dramatically to the ground as Scott McTominay’s flailing arm brushed against his face during a duel.
‘Son reacted pathetically, as if he had been struck by a claymore. He fell to the ground, clutching his face, as play went on — McTominay to Fred to Pogba to Cavani. A really good goal was then wrecked by the pen-pushers,’ Winter says.
‘When the Premier League boasts talents of the touch and class of Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani then it can never be ruined by the officials overseeing the hapless, pedantic, inconsistent application of VAR in English football.
‘The game is about players expressing their flair in front of goal, not officials in front of screens looking for ways to rule out goals.
‘One of the problems with VAR is that it has highlighted that this is a poor generation of officials, beyond the decent few such as Michael Oliver, Anthony Taylor and Martin Atkinson.
‘What happened in the 34th minute should haunt the thoughts and conscience of Mike Riley, the general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the body in charge of professional referees.
‘Pogba’s elegance and intelligence of pass to Cavani and the Uruguay forward’s irresistible finish were rendered irrelevant by one of those crass VAR miscarriages of justice that are so damaging to the game.’
Spurs’ manager José Mourinho is, of course, a master of mind games and you cannot help but think that referee Chris Kavanagh’s decision may have been influenced by the fallout that would come from the Portuguese coach if the goal had stood.
It is reminiscent of United’s denied penalty against Chelsea in February, when Luke Shaw said he heard referee Stuart Attwell telling Harry Maguire ‘If I say it’s a pen it’s going to cause a lot of talk about it after.’
Referees have to stop thinking about fallout and call the decisions as they see them. The VAR needs to take a huge step back from this constant interference in what should be a free-flowing game, refereed by the man in the middle.
‘The argument in favour of technology remains strong if it is used as a safety net, rescuing officials and games from bad mistakes,’ Winter says.
‘The game is so quick, and players increasingly masters of the dark arts, that referees need help.
‘But there was no “clear and obvious” error here. It should have been a case of get on with the game and, for crying out loud, get up Son. Sadly for such a gifted footballer, Son is getting himself a bad reputation.’