It was one of the A-League’s biggest flashpoints of the weekend – the dramatic award of a 96th-minute penalty to Western Sydney that earned the Wanderers a point and sparked fury from Melbourne Victory boss Tony Popovic over the use of VAR.
But new footage released today – watch it below – has called into question Popovic’s claims over what he said was a missed offside, after his side was condemned to its fourth draw in a row.
The penalty followed a handball by Victory centreback Brendon Hamill and was converted by Steven Ugarkovic – much to the annoyance of Popovic. Compounding his frustration, the VAR had minutes earlier intervened to persuade referee Shaun Evans to upgrade a yellow card to Roderick Miranda to a red for a studs-up tackle on Jarrod Carluccio.
After the game, Popovic claimed that Wanderers centreback Tommy Mrcela was offside in the build-up to the penalty, and said the VAR had failed to check for offside at all.
“It’s really poor, whoever is up there (as VAR) should not be there again,” he said. “If you do your job properly, that’s an offside and it doesn’t get to a handball, we get a free kick and the game is over.”
But footage released on Monday shows the VAR asking Evans to delay the penalty by a few seconds as lines are drawn across the screen to confirm that Western Sydney’s players were all onside when the ball was crossed into the box.
The handball by Hamill is also reviewed in the footage, and Football Australia’s referees boss, Nathan Magill, said the process of checking contentious incidents had improved in response to pressure from fans.
“The first thing the VAR checks on any goal or possible penalty is what we call the APP – the attacking possession phase – is it clean, are we good to award the goal? Clearly that includes potential offsides every time,” Magill said.
“We also saw that with Melbourne City’s second goal this weekend when Jamie Maclaren was flagged offside on the field but the VAR corrected that. In the case of Western Sydney’s penalty, the review was spot on.
“The VAR checks over every goal, every penalty, every red card, and what we’ve seen in recent weeks is our VARs getting better at judging when to intervene.
“Following our conversation with the group a few weeks ago, the VARs and the referees have listened and adapted. The bar for intervention has been set high and the reviews have been quicker, while getting the right outcomes.
“We’ll never be perfect but the feedback from fans has been taken on board, and you can see our referees and VARs acting on it.”