The VAR Review: Most controversial Premier League games

Video Assistant Referee causes consternation every week in the Premier League and, throughout the 2022-23 season, some decisions saw more controversy than others.

With the curtain now pulled down on the campaign, we take a look at the biggest decisions which took the headlines and reveal how the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel viewed each incident.

How VAR decisions affected every Prem club in 2022-23
VAR in the Premier League: Ultimate guide

What happened: Manchester United equalised in the 78th minute when Marcus Rashford ran on to a ball from Casemiro down the centre, though was clearly played offside by Manuel Akanji. Rashford chased the ball but didn’t touch it, and Bruno Fernandes ran over and took the shot instead. The assistant, Darren Cann, raised his flag for offside, but referee Stuart Attwell awarded the goal after a short discussion.

VAR decision: Goal stands.

Why it was controversial: As far as the law goes, this was without doubt the most controversial situation of the season.

In the spirit of the game, there seems little doubt that offside would have been the better decision; no one would have argued had the goal been disallowed. But the Laws of the Game are not this straightforward, especially when it comes to subjective elements of offside, and deciding if the referee has made an error.

That the referee overruled the flag of his assistant added to the controversy, and of course it led to United going on to win the derby.

The key question for the VAR, Michael Oliver, was whether Attwell has made a clear error in law to overrule the assistant and allow the goal. And whether we like it or not, Rashford didn’t obviously break any of the criteria for an offside offence.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct for the VAR not to intervene but, on balance, giving him offside is the better decision. Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) chief refereeing officer Howard Webb later said that while the onside decision was “supportable” and “not incorrect,” he would want offside to be given in such a situation.


What happened: Brentford equalised in the 74th minute through a free-kick routine. Mathias Jensen floated a ball to the back post for Ivan Toney to help back across the area. After the ball was headed around the box, Pinnock nodded it forward, which Christian Norgaard latched on to and hooked back across the six-yard box for Toney to head home. There was a VAR check for offside in the phase against Ethan Pinnock.

VAR decision: Goal stands.

Why it was controversial: A huge error, and one that effectively cost the VAR, Lee Mason, his job.

Mason didn’t forget to draw the lines; he simply rushed through the process after checking the offside against Pinnock and didn’t identify there was a possible offside against Norgaard.

The goal was cleared, and Arsenal dropped two points that could have had huge implications on the title race and might have led to Brentford getting European football ahead of another team.

After refereeing body PGMOL admitted there had been a mistake, Mason left his role as a full-time VAR by mutual consent a few days later with this, his sixth mistake of the season.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; goal should have been disallowed.


What happened: Brighton scored in the 32nd minute when Pascal Gross played in Pervis Estupinan, who finished past Vicente Guaita, but there was a VAR check for offside.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: The second major error of this weekend, with the VAR, John Brooks, and the Hawk-Eye technology operator failing to apply the offside line correctly. It was placed to the feet of the third-last defender, which made Estupinan offside.

PGMOL again admitted this was one of “two significant errors,” and had the offside line been drawn to the correct defender, Marc Guehi, Estupinan would have been onside.

It was the latest in a long line of decisions that had gone against Brighton — and it wouldn’t be the last.

While Mason left his job, Brooks was removed from duty for his next two appointments.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention; goal should have stood.


What happened: Maxwel Cornet thought he had equalised for West Ham United in the 90th minute. Referee Andy Madley gave the goal but the VAR, Jarred Gillett, reviewed the attacking phase for a foul by Jarrod Bowen on goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: It was one of two incidents on this day which caused the Premier League to take an unprecedented step and ask PGMOL to explain the decisions.

The VAR decided that Bowen’s contact with Mendy was enough to cause an injury and left the Chelsea goalkeeper unable to react and attempt to save Cornet’s shot. While there is no argument there was contact with Mendy as Bowen jumped over the keeper, it was minimal and shouldn’t have caused Mendy to stay down.

West Ham lost the game 2-1 and were denied what most likely would have been a point-earning goal.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention; the goal shouldn’t have been disallowed.


What happened: Joe Willock collided with goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, with the ball going into the goal off Crystal Palace defender Tyrick Mitchell. The VAR, Lee Mason, checked for a foul on Guaita after referee Michael Salisbury gave the goal.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: The second decision which greatly annoyed the Premier League. There was clear evidence that Willock was pushed into Guaita by Mitchell as the Newcastle United midfielder was preparing to head the ball. But Mason decided that this was normal football contact, rather than any kind of illegal action by Mitchell.

There was a stronger case for a penalty to Newcastle than to disallow their goal.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention; the goal shouldn’t have been disallowed.


What happened: The game was goalless in the 12th minute when Bukayo Saka played Arsenal striker Gabriel Martinelli through to score. Referee Paul Tierney gave the goal but the VAR, Lee Mason, initiated a review for a foul in the buildup by Martin Odegaard on Christian Eriksen.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: The goal would have given Arsenal the lead and changed the complexion of the game. Instead, it was United who scored first and went on to take all three points.

While there is certainly a case for a foul, it wasn’t an obvious offence.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention; the goal shouldn’t have been disallowed.


What happened: Brighton thought they had equalised in the 17th minute when Brighton & Hove Albion‘s Kaoru Mitoma controlled the ball and finished past Hugo Lloris, but the assistant immediately raised his flag to disallow the goal for handball. The VAR checked to make sure the decision was right (watch here.)

VAR decision: No goal.

Why it was controversial: The VAR spent two minutes looking at a variety of angles trying to identify which part of the body Mitoma had used to control the ball. Salisbury decided that he didn’t have conclusive evidence that the on-field decision of no goal was incorrect.

It looked a very harsh decision by the assistant and there was certainly more to suggest this wasn’t handball.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Goal shouldn’t have been disallowed, but there wasn’t enough evidence for the VAR to overturn the on-field decision.

What happened: Danny Welbeck thought he had put Brighton in front in the 55th minute with a shot from just inside the area, but there was a VAR check for handball against Alexis Mac Allister (watch here.)

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: Welbeck’s shot hit Mac Allister before it went into the goal. Therefore, the goal belonged to the Argentina international; if the ball touched his arm, it would be an automatic offence of handball before a goal, even though it was an involuntary action and his arm was tucked into his body.

Like with Mitoma, this comes down to the VAR making a judgement on the burden of proof to overturn the decision on the field. In this case, he was confident that the ball had touched the arm of Mac Allister. But many people felt there just wasn’t enough evidence that the ball came off Mac Allister’s hip, rather than his arm

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR intervention.

What happened: In the 70th minute with the score 1-1, Mitoma attempted to control a dropping ball inside the area following a corner routine. He appeared to be caught by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and went to ground, but referee Stuart Attwell ignored the penalty appeals (watch here).

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: It was an exceptionally poor decision first by the referee and then the VAR, Michael Salisbury, and one which led chief refereeing officer Webb to contact Brighton to admit there had been a mistake. While other incidents in this game are open to debate, this is the one which Webb felt was so egregious.

The referee and the VAR will consider if the contact has a consequence; does it cause the attacker to go to ground in the way he has? But there was no embellishment from Mitoma, it was clear and obvious that he had been tripped by the Tottenham midfielder and a spot kick should have been awarded.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; penalty should have been awarded.

What happened: Brighton won a free kick in the 86h minute. The ball was played into the box in search of an equaliser and Harry Kane headed clear — but Lewis Dunk wanted a penalty for a shirt pull by Clement Lenglet (watch here.)

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: Lenglet was exceptionally fortunate, because if the referee gave a penalty there was no chance it would be overturned.

When the shirt is seen to be pulled away from the body, fans expect the officials to act, but yet again Brighton didn’t get the decision.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: This should have been a penalty, but it wasn’t a clear and obvious error for the VAR to intervene.


What happened: With Aston Villa 1-0 up, Liverpool equalised in the 54th minute. Trent Alexander-Arnold swung a ball in which Luis Diaz attempted to head back across the box. It came off Villa defender Ezri Konsa, fell to Virgil van Dijk, and after a short melee Cody Gakpo fired into the net. But there was a check for offside in the buildup (watch here.)

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: This was about a player being in control of their actions and the outcome, with the VAR, Tony Harrington, determining that Konsa hadn’t made a “deliberate play” of the ball.

The ball came at Konsa from a short distance and was dropping behind him until he attempted to get his foot on the ball, while it came off his leg, just below his knee, to run to Van Dijk.

Another of the clauses for a “deliberate play” requires Konsa to have “time to coordinate their body movement, i.e. it was not a case of instinctive stretching or jumping, or a movement that achieved limited contact/control,” and it’s hard to argue that he did.

But this is all nonsensical to supporters, who understandably think a “deliberate play” is purely a player trying to kick the ball, which Konsa did.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR intervention, offside with no “deliberate play” by Konsa.

What happened: In first-half injury time, Tyrone Mings challenged Gakpo for the ball and caught the Liverpool player in the stomach. Referee John Brooks showed the Villa player the yellow card.

VAR decision: No red card.

Why it was controversial: In the Premier League, there tends to be much greater leniency when it comes to high boots — unless there is any force and intensity in the challenge.

The referee saw the studs make contact with the chest and didn’t feel there was force in the challenge, so Harrington decided the yellow card was an acceptable disciplinary outcome.

But with Gakpo revealing stud marks on his chest, the feeling was Mings should have seen red.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct decision; no VAR intervention necessary.


What happened: Newcastle United thought they had taken the lead in the 64th minute. Alexander Isak played a cross into the area which was cut out by Nottingham Forest defender Felipe. The ball ran to Forest’s Moussa Niakhate, who hit it against Sean Longstaff, his first involvement in the move. The ball was then back with Isak, who crossed for Elliot Anderson to head into the goal at the back post. Unbeknownst to all the fans in the stadium, the players and everyone watching on TV, an offside check had begun.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: It’s the “deliberate play” part of the offside law again. And how could Longstaff be offside when he wasn’t initially involved and the ball has been kicked by two Forest players before it then hits him?

Like Konsa, it’s a decision which could be viewed as correct and explainable in law, but is inexplicable in football logic. Was Felipe deliberately trying to play the ball? Yes. Was it a “deliberate play” of the ball by Felipe? Perhaps not.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect decision; goal should stand. However, ESPN sources have said that FIFA would expect this goal to be disallowed.


What happened: In the 86th minute of this fourth-round FA Cup tie, Evan Ferguson had turned Fabinho and was looking for a pass. The Liverpool midfielder tried to tackle the Brighton striker but caught him on the Achilles with his studs. Referee David Coote showed Fabinho a yellow card.

VAR decision: No red card.

Why it was controversial: The VAR, Neil Swarbrick, looked at this challenge for some time and ultimately decided a yellow card was an acceptable disciplinary outcome, but all the evidence suggests he got the decision wrong.

Even if the referee told the VAR he saw that the contact was above the boot but the challenge didn’t have the necessary force for a red card, the nature of the challenge itself had to be endangering the safety of an opponent.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: N/A, as it was an FA Cup tie. PGMOL admitted Fabinho should have been sent off.


What happened: In the 89th minute, Conor Gallagher had a shot on goal from the edge of the area. Tomas Soucek went to ground to block the shot and it hit his left arm, taking all the pace off the ball as it ran through to goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: When is the arm supporting the body, and when is it being placed in a position to block the path of the ball? This is the whole crux of the decision; the former isn’t a handball offence, the latter is.

The judgment of the VAR, Neil Swarbrick, was that Soucek was putting his arm to the ground to break his fall, and therefore there’s no grounds to overturn the decision of the referee, Craig Pawson.

It seemed very clear that in diving to block the shot from Gallagher, Soucek placed his arm into the path of the ball: it was enlarging the size of his body and was effectively a save.

It’s worse that Swarbrick’s was such a swift check, with play allowed to continue. Swarbrick had been the head of VAR for the Premier League since the system was introduced at the start of the 2019-20 season, but had started taking on live matches ahead of his departure from the role at the end of the season.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; penalty should have been awarded.


What happened: Nottingham Forest were awarded a corner in the 19th minute when the game was goalless. The delivery from Renan Lodi dropped into the six-yard box on to a cluster of players. Forest players appealed for a penalty and referee Simon Hooper signalled there was a VAR check underway from Andy Madley.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: It’s easy to see why so many people, including Forest boss Steve Cooper, would think this is a certain penalty, but the VAR had a few things to take into account to determine whether the on-field decision of no penalty was incorrect.

When jumping or trying to head the ball there’s an increased likelihood of the arm being high. Also a player who is in a tussle for the ball will have a different natural position for their arm compared to a player who is on their own. Maguire was battling for the ball with three other players, two of which happen to be his teammates. Maguire’s left arm is always in the same position against another player, and the ball strikes it when he misses the header.

If the ball had hit Maguire’s right arm, which he brought up and across into the path of the ball, that would be a certain VAR intervention.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct decision; no VAR intervention.


What happened: West Ham were pushing for an equaliser in the 89th minute. Danny Ings tried to help the ball further into the area and it hit the arm of Thiago, who was falling to the ground as he attempted to make a tackle. Referee Chris Kavanagh ignored claims for a spot kick.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: The annoyance of West Ham boss David Moyes was understandable, but in the Premier League you won’t get a VAR penalty for a situation like this. If the referee gives it, then it wouldn’t be overturned, but there is enough doubt — and exemption clauses in the law — for the VAR not to intervene.

Moyes claimed, “If you lunge it’s your own fault for lunging and being out of control in the tackle,” but this isn’t part of the handball law. In fact, Moyes gave a reason for the penalty not to be awarded, because the expected position of the arm for a player’s movement should be taken into account when judging a possible offence. Thiago is going to ground to challenge Ings, and needs his left arm to support his body.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct decision; no VAR intervention.


What happened: In the 81st minute, the ball bounced up just outside the centre circle and as Oliver Skipp went to head it he was caught on the side of the head by the studs of Diogo Jota, who was attempting to nick the ball away with a raised foot. The challenge drew blood and referee Paul Tierney produced a yellow card for Jota.

VAR decision: No red card.

Why it was controversial: This could easily have been a red card, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an incorrect decision for the VAR, David Coote, not to intervene.

While there is a case that Jota endangered the safety of an opponent, at the same time it could be argued that Jota was only reckless — which is a yellow-card offence. Does Skipp put his head into the area where Jota is playing the ball, rather than the Liverpool player directly kicking his opponent? Did Jota try to play the ball and not expect Skipp to attempt the header? They are all questions the VAR must ask.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct decision; no VAR intervention.


What happened: AFC Bournemouth had a corner in the 28th minute with the score goalless, and as players jostled for position, Jefferson Lerma went to ground holding his face. The VAR, Andy Madley, began a review for a possible red card for violent conduct by Joachim Andersen.

VAR decision: No red card.

Why it was controversial: Andersen had his arm on Lerma’s shoulder, and as he brought his arm across the front of Lerma he closed his hand and caught the face of the opponent. At full speed it’s difficult to spot, but slowed down the contact with Lerma’s nose is clear.

Although referee Michael Salisbury had a good view from the edge of the area, he surely couldn’t have seen the reason Lerma was on the floor. So this comes down to the VAR making his own subjective judgment on violent conduct, and Madley wrongly decided there was not as there was no swing of the arm and only a small movement.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; red card should have been shown.


What happened: Deep into injury time with Chelsea leading 2-1, Tottenham had a corner. When the ball was played in, Cristian Romero yanked Marc Cucurella‘s hair off the ball and pulled him to the ground. No foul was given by referee Anthony Taylor, and the VAR, Mike Dean, allowed play to continue with another corner to Spurs.

VAR decision: No red card.

Why it was controversial: Missing the red card on its own might not have been quite so controversial, but Spurs equalised from the corner that followed. If the VAR had advised that Romero should have been sent off, then the game would have restarted with a free kick to Chelsea, rather than a corner to Spurs.

To compound Chelsea’s anger, Dean then admitted he had made a mistake in his new column in the Daily Mail.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; red card should have been shown.


What happened: Arsenal took the lead in the first minute through Martinelli, but there was a review for offside in the buildup against Saka (watch here.)

VAR decision: Goal stands

Why it was controversial: A first, as the VAR was unable to make a full calibrated check on Saka’s offside position. Technology provider Hawk-Eye has five cameras around the pitch which can be used to place the offside lines, but Saka was out of shot on all of them at the point the ball was played by Ben White.

There was no suggestion the onside decision was incorrect based upon the available evidence, and if Saka had been clearly offside the decision would have been changed. But being unable to apply the lines to prove the onside decision angered Arsenal fans.

It happened again in an FA Cup tie in January, as Wolves had a goal disallowed against Liverpool when Matheus Nunes was given offside coming back to receive the ball after taking a corner. Some replays suggests Nunes may have been onside, but he was out of shot on all the calibrated cameras so the VAR had to stick with the on-field decision. It would have been a winning goal for Wolves.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: The VAR was correct not to intervene.

What happened: In the 15th minute, Diogo Jota attempted to play the ball into the area and it hit the arm of Gabriel. Referee Michael Oliver waved play on but the VAR, Darren England, checked for a possible penalty for handball.

VAR decision: No penalty

Why it was controversial: Liverpool would have had the chance to equalise quickly. Many Liverpool fans believed this had to be a penalty, with Gabriel’s arm raised and creating a barrier. But with so many considerations for the handball law in the modern game, referee Oliver decided that Gabriel was too close to the ball when Jota played it.

The VAR decided it wasn’t a clear error not to penalise Gabriel for handball.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision; no penalty.


What happened: West Ham United took the lead in the 62nd minute when Gianluca Scamacca took control of a pass from Lucas Paqueta and lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Bernd Leno. Referee Chris Kavanagh gave the goal but there was a check for handball against Scamacca.

VAR decision: Goal stands

Why it was controversial: The ball did appear to deviate ever so slightly as it past Scamacca’s hand, and that’s all that’s needed for a handball offence by the goal scorer. But the VAR, Michael Salisbury, decided there wasn’t enough evidence to disallow the goal.

It looked worse because Scamacca didn’t celebrate the goal, as though he knew it would be ruled out.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; goal should have been disallowed.

What happened: West Ham wrapped up the win in the 91st minute when Michail Antonio scored. The ball touched the striker’s arm before he went on to score, leading to a VAR check.

VAR decision: Goal stands

Why it was controversial: There was no doubt the ball touched Antonio’s arm, but he didn’t immediately score — his shot was saved by Leno, the ball was then played by defender Tim Ream back onto his goalkeeper, and Antonio scored from the rebound.

That means the VAR has to judge Antonio’s actions to be deliberate to rule out the goal, but Salisbury decided it was accidental contact — meaning West Ham had scored two goals from handball situations in a 3-1 victory.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; goal should have been disallowed for deliberate handball; Antonio used his arm to control the ball.


What happened: In the 67th minute, Jeff Schlupp fouled Antony close to the touch-line, and a melee ensued between the two sets of players. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, with referee Andre Marriner booking the Crystal Palace player for the foul and the Manchester United forward for his reaction. The VAR, Tony Harrington, looked through the incident in case the referee had missed anything, and advised a red-card review against Casemiro after the midfielder was shown to have both hands around the neck of Will Hughes.

VAR decision: Red card.

Why it was controversial: When a referee is sent to the monitor, he is being told he should change his decision, rather than take a second look. So for all incidents, the VAR will show the referee the most incriminating evidence, because the role of the monitor is to effectively confirm the overturn — though the referee remains in control of the process and can request additional angles to confirm the decision.

That’s why Marriner is shown the one angle which suggested Casemiro’s actions were violent conduct — the use of excessive force or brutality when not challenging for the ball. The issue is that a second angle, not shown to Marriner, wasn’t as conclusive.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision.


What happened: In the 34th minute, Casemiro went in for a challenge against Carlos Alcaraz, and caught the Southampton player. Referee Anthony Taylor issued a yellow card, but the VAR, Andre Marriner, started a review for a possible red card.

VAR decision: Red card.

Why it was controversial: Most of the complaints from supporters came because Casemiro got the ball first, with his foot bouncing off the top of it and into the shin of Alcaraz.

For the VAR, it was the way Casemiro had lunged into the challenge. That the United player had played the ball first wasn’t relevant for the decision, only the force in the challenge, that he had left the floor with both feet and how he caught his opponent.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision.


What happened: Douglas Luiz and Aleksandar Mitrovic squared up to each other off the ball in the 61st minute. Referee Michael Oliver didn’t see the incident but the VAR, Paul Tierney, advised a red-card review.

VAR decision: Red card.

Why it was controversial: The players went chest-to-chest against each other, and Luiz did appear to make contact with his head on Mitrovic.

However, Villa appealed against the red card and won, with the Football Association’s independent regulatory commission ruling that Luiz had made no action with his head that should be deemed as violent conduct. Effectively, with Luiz being smaller than Mitrovic the bumping of chests had caused his forehead to catch the Fulham striker.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention.


What happened: In the 93rd minute, Kevin De Bruyne went down under a challenge from Antonee Robinson. Referee Darren England pointed to the penalty spot, which was checked by the VAR, Stuart Attwell.

VAR decision: Penalty stands, scored by Erling Haaland for City to win 2-1.

Why it was controversial: The Premier League has made a point of trying to cut out soft penalties, but with VAR protocol the decision on the field still carries the weight. This does mean that while the VAR will not give a soft penalty, if the referee has and there is evidence of contact the decision won’t be overturned.

This late match-winning penalty definitely fell into that category, with De Bruyne making the most of the contact.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: The VAR was correct not to intervene.


What happened: In the 44th minute, Yoane Wissa tried to take the ball past goalkeeper Dean Henderson and went down. Referee Andre Marriner gave a goal kick to Forest but the VAR, Lee Mason, advised a penalty to Brentford.

VAR decision: Penalty, scored by Bryan Mbeumo.

Why it was controversial: Henderson was furious at the decision, and insisted that the brush of his hand on Wissa wasn’t enough to make the forward go to ground. It was without doubt a soft penalty, with Mbeumo scoring to put the Bees back on level terms.

It was a VAR decision which went against other similar situations, as minimal contact should not lead to a VAR spot kick.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention.


What happened: In the seventh minute with the game goalless, Wolves broke and Nelson Semedo played the ball through to Goncalo Guedes, who went down inside the area up against Arsenal defender William Saliba. Referee Stuart Attwell indicated no penalty, then stopped the play for a delayed offside flag.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: The VAR, Mike Dean, identified that Guedes was probably onside, so moved to check the penalty. Guedes clearly got his foot to the ball first and was then kicked by Saliba. .

Wolves could have taken the lead in a game they went on to lose 2-0.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; penalty should have been awarded.


What happened: Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane equalised for Spurs in the 25th minute, but when the corner was delivered, Clement Lenglet collided with Illan Meslier, with the Leeds United players furious that a foul was not awarded in favour of their goalkeeper.

VAR decision: Goal stands.

Why it was controversial: The VAR, Paul Tierney, judged that referee Michael Salisbury hadn’t made a clear and obvious error in allowing play to continue, and thus Kane to score.

Meslier got a hand to the ball, but he was prevented from making a proper clearance by Lenglet. It seemed a clear case that the goalkeeper had been prevented from making a clearance by a player who was only interested in taking his opponent out of the game.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; goal should have been disallowed.


What happened: In the 59th minute, Saka delivered a free kick from the right flank, which was punched clear by Nick Pope. Gabriel went down under a challenge from Dan Burn, but referee Andy Madley took no action and the game continued.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: This decision caused a lot of controversy, and it seemed there was universal agreement among ex-players and pundits that a penalty should have been awarded for a shirt pull by Burn.

For a holding offence, the law asks if “contact with an opponent’s body or equipment impedes the opponent’s movement.” Burn almost pulled Gabriel’s shirt round, so there’s a clear argument for a penalty, but VAR Stuart Attwell decided there wasn’t enough for this to be a clear and obvious error by Madley.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision; no penalty.


What happened: Leicester City had equalised in the 39th minute, and five minutes later were handed a free kick on the edge of the area. James Maddison stepped up to hit it, but only managed to fire it into the wall. Referee Andre Marriner allowed play to continue with the ball going out for a throw-in. A couple of Leicester players appealed for the penalty, with the VAR, Graham Scott, checking for a handball offence.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: Fans could be forgiven for being unaware this even happened, as there was a limited appeal and the incident didn’t appear in the main highlights packages on TV later.

The VAR believed that Wesley Fofana had kept his arm close to his body when the ball hit it, and decided against a penalty.

It came at a crucial time, as Chelsea then took the lead in first-half stoppage time and went on to win the match.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; penalty should have been awarded. Fofana moved his elbow out from his body in a deliberate act to stop the path of the shot.


What happened: In the 51st minute, with the score 1-1, Danny Welbeck went down in the area under a challenge from Luke Thomas. The striker appealed for a penalty, but the referee, Thomas Bramall, waved away the appeals (watch here.)

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: The question wasn’t whether there was contact by Thomas on Welbeck — that wasn’t in doubt — but whether it was enough to be deemed a clear and obvious error not to give a penalty. The VAR is trying not to give soft penalties, but sometimes that means they second-guess themselves.

Welbeck didn’t embellish the way he went down, but the VAR, Lee Mason, decided there wasn’t enough to tell Bramall to overturn his decision.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; penalty should have been awarded.


What happened: Arsenal went 3-2 up in the 93rd minute when Jorginho‘s shot came back off the bar and rebounded into the goal off the head of Emiliano Martinez. But was the Aston Villa goalkeeper impacted by two players in an offside position in front of him?

VAR decision: Goal stands.

Why it was controversial: The question for the VAR, Stuart Attwell, was whether the presence of Eddie Nketiah and Odegaard prevented Martinez from “playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision.”

There was no doubt both players are offside, and in front of the goalkeeper. But the VAR decided they didn’t have a material impact on Martinez and the goal should stand — which was in keeping with other similar VAR decisions across the season.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision; no offside offence.


What happened: Just before half-time, players from both sides squared up to each other. After a long period of deliberation, referee Stuart Attwell sent off Hakim Ziyech on the advice of his assistant, Darren Cann, alongside input from the VAR, Paul Tierney. However, after the red card was shown the VAR immediately instigated a review for a clear and obvious error to overturn the red card (watch here.)

VAR decision: Red card cancelled.

Why it was controversial: How could anyone be blamed for being confused? With the way VAR operates, everyone was left guessing and assuming this was an error in process by the officials. Yet despite all this, VAR protocol was followed to the letter.

In short, even though the VAR didn’t think Ziyech’s actions were a red-card offence, he cannot tell Attwell it isn’t a red-card offence before the referee has decided whether or not there was a red-card offence. Clear?

The VAR can advise the referee which player has committed a possible offence, but not what the sanction should be — which was the case here.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR intervention; no red card.


What happened: Right at the end of the game, following a corner routine, the ball bounced up and was stopped close to the line by Philip Billing under pressure from Gabriel. For the fourth time in this game, there were appeals for a handball penalty from Arsenal players.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: Billing was just in front of the goal-line when the ball hit his hand. This was probably the one handball claim in the game which wouldn’t have been changed through VAR if awarded by the referee.

Some felt Billing’s arm was in a position which stopped Gabriel’s effort on goal, regardless of proximity.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision; no handball offence. Arsenal had a total of five penalty appeals in this game, all not awarded and all judged as a correct VAR decision by the panel.


What happened: In the 63rd minute, Eberechi Eze turned to move towards goal inside the area. West Ham United defender Nayef Aguerd held an arm out on the Crystal Palace forward, who went to ground. Referee Craig Pawson pointed to the penalty spot, but there was a VAR check.

VAR decision: Penalty stands, scored by Eze.

Why it was controversial: If there’s any contact by the defender on the attacker, even if slight, then there is pressure on the VAR, Jarred Gillett, not to activate an intervention.

However, this applies more to lower body contact and Aguerd barely touched Eze’s shirt as he went past him. It was an extremely soft penalty, and Gillett probably tried to stay too close to protocol.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Missed VAR intervention; penalty should have been cancelled.


What happened: West Ham United thought they had clawed a goal back in the 67th minute through Danny Ings. Divin Mubama had attempted to head home a deep cross from Said Benrahma, but he couldn’t reach the ball. It came back off the post, hit Mubama and then fell to Manuel Lanzini, who created the goal for Ings. But there was a VAR review for a possible handball by Mubama.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

Why it was controversial: Was there definitive evidence of a handball offence? It was really difficult to tell from the television pictures, and certainly not “clear and obvious.”

As Mubama wasn’t the goal scorer, there can only be a handball offence if it’s a deliberate act, or if a player has his arm in an unnatural position for his movement. It certainly wasn’t deliberate and as Mubama was jumping and trying to avoid the goalpost, he shouldn’t be expected to have his arms low.

When the hand is raised, there is a much higher chance it will be judged an offence. But the ball comes at Mubama from very close range off the post, which he cannot be expected to react to. It felt over-fussy work from the VAR, Robert Jones.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention. The decision of referee Michael Oliver was correct and there was insufficient evidence of a clear and obvious error.


What happened: Southampton were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time when Pape Matar Sarr challenged Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Referee Simon Hooper had a good view of the incident and immediately pointed to the spot (watch here.)

VAR decision: Penalty stands; scored by James Ward-Prowse.

Why it was controversial: Sarr made some contact with Maitland-Niles, but Southampton were fortunate to get the spot kick. Would the VAR, Tony Harrington, have stepped in to award the penalty had the referee played on? Probably not.

This might seem in contradiction to the “not all contact is a foul” mantra, and it’s understandable if fans are confused: a small amount of contact can’t be a penalty through VAR, but the VAR can’t intervene if there’s a only small amount of contact.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct decision; no VAR intervention needed and the penalty should stand.


What happened: There was a melee in the 89th minute after a challenge between Diego Costa and Cheikhou Kouyate. Behind the back of referee Chris Kavanagh, there was an altercation between Daniel Podence and Brennan Johnson, with the suggestion the Wolves player had spat at the Nottingham Forest player. The VAR, Neil Swarbrick, looked at the incident for a possible red card.

VAR decision: No action.

Why it was controversial: The VAR has to find evidence that Podence did spit at Johnson, but there’s nothing in any of the replay angles that suggests any saliva was projected.

From that, what seems most likely is Podence had simulated spitting, just blowing out of his mouth. The VAR cannot go solely from the reaction of Johnson, who held his face.

Podence was subsequently charged by the Football Association, after submissions of evidence from Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White. However, the charge was “not proven” with Johnson’s evidence “not convincing,” while Gibbs-White failed to turn up to give his account.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct VAR decision; no intervention for a red card.


What happened: Rico Henry went to ground under a challenge from Alexander Isak in the 41st minute. Referee Chris Kavanagh wasn’t interested in a penalty kick, but there was a lengthy VAR review by Darren England.

VAR decision: Penalty, scored by Ivan Toney.

Why it was controversial: England watched the incident 23 times from various angles, and in total the review took three minutes from the challenge to Kavanagh signalling the penalty kick. Almost five minutes had elapsed by the time Toney’s spot kick hit the back of the net. It’s difficult to see what level of contact there was, but it certainly wasn’t significant.

The decision went against the high-bar ethos, with the VAR clearly having doubts going by the number of times he had to watch the replay.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Incorrect VAR intervention; no penalty.


What happened: With the game goalless in the first half, Diego Costa tried to break into the box and went down under a challenge from Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. Referee Andy Madley waved away penalty appeals while the VAR, Tony Harrington, checked for a possible penalty and red card against Pope.

VAR decision: No penalty.

Why it was controversial: Jimenez would have had the chance to score, so if the referee had given the penalty he would surely have had to send Pope off too.

Harrington decided it wasn’t a clear and obvious error not to give the spot kick, with doubts over whether Jimenez had initiated the contact by moving into Pope.

What the Independent Key Match Incidents Panel said: Correct for the VAR not to intervene, but the referee should have awarded a penalty.