10 Major VAR Controversies in the Premier League

The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in 2019 was heralded as a massive step forward for the Premier League.

The days where controversial decisions were made were supposed to become a thing of the past, and football would be a better place for it.


However, the reality has proved to be much different, with barely a week going by without some VAR-related nonsense occurring in England’s top flight.

Whether it’s diving going unpunished or penalties not being given, VAR has not cleaned up the mistakes many thought it would have upon introduction.

We’ve waded our way through the list of VAR decisions in the Premier League to pick out 10 of the most contentious since it was introduced.

Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool – October 2019

Liverpool were unstoppable during the 2019/20 season, but their points tally could have been more impressive had it not been for VAR.

Marcus Rashford put United ahead in the game, but Divock Origi was clearly fouled by Victor Lindelof during the build-up.

However, VAR failed to overturn the decision to award the goal and leave Reds’ manager Jurgen Klopp gnashing his pearly whites after the game.

Arsenal 2-2 Crystal Palace – October 2019

Unai Emery was already under pressure as Arsenal boss by the time his team welcomed Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium in October 2019.

He thought the Gunners had bagged all three points when Sokratis fired home with six minutes to go, but VAR had other ideas.

Calum Chambers was ruled to have caught Luka Milivojevic on the toe during the build-up, and the goal was ruled out. Emery lasted just a few more weeks before he was sacked.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Sheffield United – November 2019

The Blades had a hard time of things with VAR during the 2019/20 season, with 11 decisions overturned in their games during the campaign.

One of the worst of the bunch came against Tottenham, with David McGoldrick seeing an equaliser disallowed in controversial fashion.

John Lundstram was deemed by VAR to be in an offside position earlier in the move, although the replays were far from conclusive.

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City – November 2019

City were already seven points behind Liverpool in the title race when they travelled to Anfield, and they could ill-afford to fall further behind.

Fabinho’s long-range strike set the Reds on their way, although the goal should have been ruled out for an earlier handball by Trent Alexander-Arnold.

City protested the decision, but VAR didn’t interject into proceedings and Liverpool went on to claim a valuable 3-1 victory.

Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United, June 2020

If the Blades thought the decision at Spurs was a howler, they were forced to think again with an absolute shocker at Villa Park last June.

Ollie Norwood’s free-kick was caught by goalkeeper Orjan Nyland, but he fell back into his own net and took the ball with him.

Referee Michael Oliver did not receive a notification on his watch from the goal-line technology, and VAR failed to intervene to leave manager Chris Wilder fuming.

Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United – July 2020

The boot was on the other foot for Villa later the same season as Bruno Fernandes bagged a contentious penalty for United.

Fernandes picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty box before stepping on Ezri Konsa’s leg and collapsing in a heap as he turned.

The referee awarded the spot-kick, and Villa’s protests were in vain as there was complete silence from VAR at Stockley Park. Fernandes scored the spot-kick and United went on to win the game.

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-3 Manchester United – September 2020

Blowing the final whistle generally means that the referee has ended the game, but all that changed at the Amex Stadium last September.

Chris Kavanagh blew for full-time after a corner kick, but VAR ruled that Neal Maupay had blocked Harry Maguire’s header with his hand.

Fernandes slotted home the penalty to secure an unlikely three points for the Red Devils and leave Brighton raging.

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Liverpool – November 2020

Liverpool looked on course for victory at the Amex before VAR intervened spectacularly to hand Brighton the chance to secure an unlikely point.

Andy Robertson’s attempted clearance saw him clip the end of Danny Welbeck’s foot, but the referee decided this was not a penalty.

However, VAR intervened and Pascal Gross tied up the game from the spot. Klopp’s meltdown on television after the game was a joy to behold.

Crystal Palace 4-1 Leeds United – November 2020

The ridiculous nature of some VAR decisions was laid bare at Selhurst Park last November as Palace took on newly-promoted Leeds.

Patrick Bamford thought he had scored to put Leeds level, nipping in between the defenders to poke the ball home.

However, VAR ruled that Bamford’s arm was offside, sparking an outpouring of ‘the game’s gone’ comments on social media.

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion – February 2021

Lee Mason’s thought processes were called into question after his massive cock-up at The Hawthorns over the weekend.

Mason disallowed and then allowed a Lewis Dunk free-kick for Brighton, only for VAR to rule out the goal and leave everyone scratching their heads.

Brighton were rightly furious after the game, and they will be hoping that the decision doesn’t prove to be costly as they strive to avoid relegation this season.