A VAR official has been axed from their Champions League role this evening, following a controversial penalty decision which allowed PSG to snatch a point against Newcastle United last night.
Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side went to battle with PSG yesterday evening in their penultimate group stage match of this year’s UEFA Champions League competition.
A pivotal goal from Alexander Isak in the 24th minute gave Newcastle the edge for the majority of the match, despite numerous (and often close) attempts at levelling the score.
Howe’s men defended their lead admirably, barely seeing anything of the ball in the last 20 minutes of the 90 but still keeping their heads above water against an increasingly frustrated PSG at the Parc Des Princes.
The French giants had a glimmer of hope in the final quarter of the match when a VAR review of a possible handball was made against Newcastle. This claim was initially dismissed by the on-pitch referee Szymon Marciniak, and this decision was upheld when the check was made, much to the disappointment of Paris fans.
However, as is becoming more-often-than-not the case in high profile games nowadays, controversy involving VAR wasn’t far around the corner.
8 additional minutes were added on to the 90 for Newcastle to deal with, and in typical Sod’s Law fashion, they would fall foul to a controversial refereeing decision with just 1 minute of those 8 left to play.
A bouncing ball in the Newcastle area came off of the chest of Tino Livremento and brushed the inside of defender’s arm. The handball was once again waved off by the on-pitch ref, who up until that point had earned the praise of commentators for his control of the game.
His VAR, Tomasz Kwiatkowski, however, felt that the incident required review, calling Marciniak over to the screen. From there, Newcastle’s hopes were dashed, as the official overturned his own decision and awarded a penalty to PSG in the final minute of the game.
The reasoning has since been given – that Livremento’s action was an attempt to make his body bigger and screen the ball away – insinuating a deliberate handball which lead to the penalty decision.
Pundits, and the majority of the North East (at the very least) were shocked by the seemingly nonsensical decision, many of whom pointed out that the offence held less sway than the penalty shout the French side had called for earlier in the game and been denied.
PSG’s poster boy, Kylian Mbappe, stepped up and put the ball in the back of the net to earn them a vital point, and make Newcastle’s job of qualifying in the action-packed Group F that bit more difficult.
Their fate rests in their own hands, with their final group stage matchup with AC Milan deciding whether or not they make their way into the knockout rounds of the tournament. They will both need to win their match with Milan, and also hope that PSG lose theirs with Borussia Dortmund.
The highly controversial goal has not come without its repercussions – with VAR Kwiatkowski now being removed from his duties for tonight’s Champions League matchup between Real Sociedad and Salzburg.
Kwiatkowski was a part of Szymon Marciniak’s team who refereed last year’s UEFA Champions League Final.
The VAR has been removed from action for the foreseeable future whilst last night’s decision is investigated, with UEFA having made no statement on the matter in accordance with their policy to not discuss on-pitch decision publicly.
This will not change things for Newcastle, but it is certainly a relief to see that some of the controversial, and often obviously poor decisions that officials have been making recently will see them held accountable to some degree.
The UEFA Champions League continues this evening with action from Galatasaray vs Manchester United, Sevilla vs PSV, Bayern Munich vs Copenhagen, Real Madrid vs Napoli, Real Sociedad vs RB Salzburg, Braga vs Union Berlin, Arsenal vs Lens, and Benfica vs Inter Milan.