Mauricio Pochettino concered Videro Assistant Referee (VAR) will kill the emotion in football
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Spurs’ 6-1 win over Rochdale was overshadowed by VAR when it is meant to take debate out of the game
Most of the talk after Tottenham Hotspur’s 6-1 win over Rochdale in their FA Cup fifth-round replay at Wembley was about the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino expressed his long-term fears for the game afterwards.
The Argentinean isn’t one to usually criticise referee decisions and has of late defended them, but spoke out about VAR following the Lilywhites progress into the last-eight of the competition.
Erik Lamela saw a first-half goal disallowed when it appeared to be legitimate while the referee Paul Tierney referred several other decisions to VAR and it resulted in the first-half having five minutes of stoppage time.
Pochettino said: “The first half was a little bit embarrassing for everyone. I’m not sure that system is going to help.
“We love the game we know, football is about emotion, but if we are going to kill emotion then people who love football will not be happy.
“I think football is about to make a mistake. Referees can make a mistake. When we watched the action at half-time it was difficult to take some decisions.
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“The referee is the boss on the pitch and has the last word, always. And my worry is now we are talking about a machine and not football.”
VAR had already caused a mild stir before kick-off by requiring the lines on the pitch to be repainted, after they were initially painted dark blue to help the officials in the wintry conditions.
And just five minutes had elapsed when Lamela thought he had fired Tottenham ahead only for referee Paul Tierney, on the advice of VAR Graham Scott, to disallow the goal for slightest of tugs on Harrison McGahey’s shirt by Fernando Llorente.
Tierney was holding his earpiece again after Spurs winger Lucas Moura was felled by McGahey in the area, with no penalty the eventual decision.
VAR was involved two minutes after Heung-min Son’s opener too when Kieran Trippier was held back by Matt Done as he charged into the area.
Tierney gave what looked a perfectly reasonable free-kick, the VAR said penalty. So it was only in keeping with the tone when Son, having paused during his run-up, had his successful penalty disallowed and was booked.
There was, of course, another delay while Tierney double-checked with VAR. Dale boss Keith Hill said: “The decisions the VAR make need to be explained to the supporters.
“I knew, and the players knew, but we have to come up with a way to let people in the stadium know what’s happening.
“We have to use the scoreboard, to have the referee explaining what decision has been made. It will make the game better, if it’s the right decision why hide it? You have to embrace it, take a leaf out of rugby. I do think it will improve.”
Unfortunately VAR overshadowed a great first half effort by Rochdale who equalised through Stephen Humphrys and nearly took the lead on the stroke of the interval when Andy Cannon’s effort hit the post.
Spurs came out with added purpose after the interval though, and Llorente claimed an 11-minute perfect hat-trick before Son added another and Kyle Walker-Peters grabbed his first goal for the club in stoppage time.
But instead of talking about some of the aforementioned, VAR dominated the headlines when it is meant to do the opposite.
Additional reporting by Press Association Sport.