NO REFEREE wants to be driving home from a game knowing they should have made a different call. Whether you’re a VAR on the lookout for clear and obvious errors – like I am now – or a referee, assistant or fourth official, you always want to do your best.
Sometimes in hindsight, you realise you could have acted differently. I’ve now had time to reflect on Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge. I was VAR at Stockley Park and in the days after that 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham, we had meetings as part of our regular camps to discuss what happened in that and other matches. Like how players analyse their performances, we speak about the incidents we were involved in.
I’ll start with the first equaliser for Tottenham by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. This one was relatively straightforward. I can’t go back 44 seconds to look at Rodrigo Bentancur’s potential foul on Kai Havertz. It is outside the attacking phase of play – the Tottenham player got a toe to the ball anyway – so that wasn’t a factor in whether Hojbjerg’s goal should stand. The question was whether Richarlison was interfering from an offside position. When Hojbjerg’s shot was struck, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had a view of the ball for me. His line of vision wasn’t clearly blocked, so it was onside and 1-1.
As for the second goal by Harry Kane, I asked referee Anthony Taylor to wait while I looked at the incident involving Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Chelsea’s Marc Cucurella. I could not award a free-kick as VAR, but I could recommend to Taylor that he visit the referee review area to consider a possible red card. In the few seconds I had to study Romero pulling Cucurella’s hair, I didn’t deem it a violent act.
I’ve since studied the footage, spoken to other referees and, upon reflection, I should have asked Taylor to visit his pitch-side monitor to take a look for himself. The referee on field always has the final say. It goes to show that no matter how experienced you are, and I’ve spent more than two decades as a Premier League official, you are always learning.
It’s disappointing for me as this was one incident in an otherwise very good weekend from our officials. Decisions are debated – that’s the life of a referee. There were some perfectly officiated games elsewhere, like Liverpool against Crystal Palace on Monday night which capped a great weekend of Premier League football.