Premier League VAR gameweek two: Every major decision and whether the referees were right

Whatever the sport, being a referee is a thankless task. “My dream is for both coaches to shake my hand after a game and tell me I did a great job,” one ice hockey official once said. “But I know it will never happen.”

Premier League referees and their video-assisted counterparts at Stockley Park are under more scrutiny than any other law enforcers across the world of sport. The rise in disdain for officials is so steep that new league guidelines are supposed to prohibit managers from entering the field of play even after matches – although this has already been disregarded.

After yet another week peppered with decisions that have sparked uproar from crowds and coaches alike, here’s a closer look at the most controversial moments from Premier League gameweek two.


Dominik Szoboszlai won what some considered to be a soft penalty against Bournemouth / DARREN STAPLES/GettyImages

Dominik Szoboszlai made an impressive home debut for Liverpool against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon but his theatrics in the penalty box didn’t convince everyone.

Half an hour into the contest, Szoboszlai tumbled under a challenge from Joe Rothwell in the corner of Bournemouth’s area. Contact was minimal – prompting loud accusations of simulation – but Rothwell’s shin does appear to catch Szoboszlai’s long leg.

Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola offered a clear appraisal of the incident: “There is contact but it is a soft, soft contact. It was not an easy game to referee. If there is contact normally they don’t ask for second opinions. It was quite clear.”

Verdict: Right decision

Jürgen Klopp, Alexis Mac AllisterJürgen Klopp, Alexis Mac Allister

Alexis Mac Allister’s debut as a Liverpool player at Anfield ended early / Visionhaus/GettyImages

No one would have been surprised to hear Jurgen Klopp describe Alexis Mac Allister’s straight red card against Bournemouth as “harsh” and “a mistake”. However, even Iraola wasn’t sure. “I don’t know. In real life, it did not look like a red card.”

Mac Allister went into a 50-50 challenge with Ryan Christie which left the Bournemouth forward writhing on the floor. Replays showed both players with their boots slightly raised but the minimal contact hardly appeared to meet the bar of “serious foul play” or “violent conduct” that “endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality”, as outlined in Law 12.

Klopp’s long-time nemesis Paul Tierney was in the VAR booth but did not overturn Thomas Bramall’s on-pitch red card. Liverpool have appealed the dismissal but, since the advent of VAR, there have been few examples of overturned decisions.

Verdict: Wrong decision

Fulham FC v Brentford FC - Premier LeagueFulham FC v Brentford FC - Premier League

Tim Ream looked guilty after bringing down Yoane Wissa but not everyone agreed / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

“That moment decided the game, finished,” Fulham manager Marco Silva seethed after watching his skipper Tim Ream give up a cheap penalty and compound the error by receiving a second yellow card in a 3-0 defeat to Brentford.

Ream’s hip does appear to connect with an airborne Yoane Wissa inside Fulham’s penalty area but the gentle level of contact leaves the decision open to the interpretation of the referee on the day. Silva, it’s safe to say, disagreed with Darren Bond.

“I have seen the moment ten times,” the Portuguese coach continued, “I can not see anything. Just the referee saw, and probably the VAR they saw it as well.”

Verdict: Right decision


Bruno Fernandes spent much of Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur moaning and carried his complaints into the post-game interview, imploring referees to publicly explain their decisions.

Other retired officials who have no problem finding a microphone have argued that Michael Oliver was right to not penalise Cristian Romero’s handling of the ball. The fact that Romero was so close to Alejandro Garnacho when he released his first-half shot ultimately saved Spurs.

However, there is no mention of proximity in Law 12 of the game. Instead, the rules underscore the point that if a player’s arm makes their “body unnaturally bigger”, which was certainly the case for Romero, it should be penalised.

Verdict: Wrong decision

Raheem Sterling, Lucas Paqueta, Tomas SoucekRaheem Sterling, Lucas Paqueta, Tomas Soucek

Tomas Soucek (right) was at the heart of a controversial Chelsea penalty on Sunday / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Tomas Soucek was not the first person to concede a penalty kick against Raheem Sterling – in fact, he was the 24th – but he almost gave Chelsea two attempts from 12 yards in quick succession.

Enzo Fernandez had his effort saved and Soucek was first on the scene, flailing at the rebound. Replays showed that the Czech midfielder had his toe on the line of the 18-yard box, which counts as encroachment, but he was judged not to have had “a material impact on the outcome of the kick”. Given the lack of Chelsea players in Soucek’s vicinity, it seemed to be a fair decision.

Verdict: Right decision

Mikel Arteta half-joked that he would bring a stopwatch with him on his next trip to the Premier League technical area. Takehiro Tomiyasu only took eight seconds to release the ball for a throw-in during Arsenal’s clash with Crystal Palace on Monday night but was booked for time-wasting.

Referee David Coote was well within his rights to brandish a yellow card as Arsenal collectively needed 23 seconds to toss the ball back into play after going 1-0 up but Kai Havertz, who later handed the ball to Tomiyasu, was the chief culprit.

With a booking to his name, Tomiyasu took the risk of a second yellow card which swiftly arrived when he leaned on Jordan Ayew to halt a Palace breakaway. VAR cannot overturn a second yellow card oddly.

The punishment of a red card for Tomiyasu seemed slightly harsh but neither booking would have sparked uproar had they been taken in isolation – which is ultimately the guidelines that referees must work within.

Verdict: Right decision

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