“Why was that Handball? VAR got it wrong! The emotion is gone!”
Those were just three of the gut reactions heard across the footballing echo chamber after Manchester City’s late goal against Tottenham was ruled out on Saturday.
But, as replays showed, the ball brushed City defender Aymeric Laporte’s hand on its way through to Jesus and the video assistant referee ruled out the goal.
So, were the rules followed correctly? Did VAR do its job? And is everyone happy?
What is the new Handball rule?
No doubt, like us, you spent your summer poring over every new rule in the handbook (if you didn’t, you can learn about them all here).
One of the most notable changes is around Handball, particularly when it comes to attackers in the opposition area.
The rule itself is as clear as day.
“Any goal scored or created with the use of the hand or arm will be disallowed this season, even if it is accidental,” says the Premier League.
Jesus’ goal, technically, was created by the use of Laporte’s arm, regardless of whether there was any intent.
The rule was changed after some high-profile goals were scored by the accidental use of a hand last season.
To give three Premier League examples:
- Last August, Willy Boly scored for Wolves against Manchester City after the ball touched his arm
- Alexandre Lacazette handled in the build-up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal for Arsenal at Crystal Palace in October
- Sergio Aguero used his hand in scoring his third for Manchester City against Arsenal in February
“I’m at pains to tell people that the rules changed in the summer because of reaction to goals going in off hands last year. The rule is clear – it has to be disallowed,” said former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher.
“The feeling was it didn’t sit right.”
It is worth pointing out that this rule has been brought in globally by the International Football Association Board (Ifab), and is merely being executed by the Premier League.
“We have to accept it,” said City boss Pep Guardiola. “It’s tough because we scored a goal late on. But ask VAR people, not me.”
Where does VAR come into all of this?
Regardless of whether you believe the rule is a good one or not, the introduction of VAR this season means it can be enforced more stringently.
Laporte’s touch was not spotted by any on-field official, just as was the case the weekend before when Wolves’ Leander Dendoncker thought he had scored a legitimate goal against Leicester, only for VAR to spot a Handball – again by Boly – and rule it out.
“It wouldn’t even be seen if we didn’t have VAR.”
So is the issue the rule itself?
Whether or not VAR is your thing or not, the video officials are just doing their job and enforcing the rule. The rule itself, though, is also attracting criticism.
“There is not one player on that pitch who thought that was a Handball or who complained,” said former England captain Alan Shearer on Match of the Day after the disallowing of Jesus’ goal against Tottenham.
“Hugo Lloris is laughing; they’ve gained a huge advantage and that is what he is thinking about it.
“There are two players making similar actions towards the ball and if it hits the defender’s arm, it is not given as a penalty – so that is not fair is it?”
City playmaker Kevin de Bruyne said “The rules should be clear. If the ball had touched somebody of Tottenham’s arm, it’s not a penalty, but if it touched our arm, it is not allowed.
“It should go both ways in something like that. I don’t understand that as a player.”
“At least it’s consistent now,” said Gallagher. “It’s happened in week one and week two and it could happen in week 38. There’s no grey area.”