After VAR played a controversial role last week in Borussia Dortmund’s draw at Bochum by not giving the referee the opportunity to see a penalty incident replay, it was again the main headline in Schalke’s late win over Mainz with a 112th minute penalty awarded after intervention from VAR. The Bundesliga title race has been hit with controversy and now it seems the relegation battle is suffering a similar fate.
Schalke, desperate for points to lift themselves out of the bottom two looked like they were going to have to settle for a draw at the Mewa Arena after Mainz had twice come from behind to equalise and the 2-2 draw looked set. Then deep into injury time (the 112th minute due to a head injury to Henning Matriciani) a coming together in the Mainz penalty area between Marius Bülter and Anthony Caci ended up being given as a penalty- after referee Matthias Jöllenbeck was advised to consult the video replay.
Bülter and Caci were manhandling each other for position, which is the norm when contesting a set-piece delivery, but when Caci’s shirt tug became apparent and Bülter went down it still looked rather innocuous. Bülter had little chance of reaching the ball that Robin Zentner claimed with ease and the game looked over with the referee not spotting anything worth his attention.
The VAR team in Köln though differently and advised him to look at the replay. And here is where the controversy with VAR kicks in. Was the non-award of the penalty for the original incident a ‘clear and obvious error’ on the part of Matthias Jöllenbeck?
To many observers it was nothing more than Bülter throwing himself to the ground to make the slight contact look worse when he had no chance of affecting the play. To others the absolute letter of the law fall on the attacker’s side with Caci not entitled to grab hold of him. Either way we are not talking about a ‘clear and obvious error’ here.
Edin Terzic will be fuming even more having seen his Dortmund side denied a penalty last week at Bochum when referee Sascha Stegemann did make a clear and obvious error in not spotting the foul on Karim Adeyemi. VAR on that occasion chose not to intervene, which gives rise to the argument as to consistency.
Mainz sporting director Martin Schmidt was clearly not happy saying, “In the end, the referee intervened in a tight relegation battle. I think it was very courageous of him because the ball was far away. Then you can whistle a penalty at every second or third corner.”
By the absolute letter of the law, a penalty can be argued, but then with the same argument, VAR should have intervened to have the penalty retaken with two Mainz and two Schalke players clearly encroaching before the spot-kick was taken by Bülter.
Yet again however, a vital Bundesliga result has been decided by VAR. The system in itself is not at fault, but the way it is being used. One week BVB are the victims of a non-VAR intervention when it should have come, the next Schalke are the beneficiaries of a VAR intervention that perhaps should not have come. The controversy continues.