La Liga

Breaking down Real Madrid's three VAR awards v Real Sociedad: Right, or wrong?

Los Blancos won 2-1 at the Anoeta, and benefited from controversial calls to claim all three points

11:50am on Monday 22nd June 2020
Martin Macdonald

Real Madrid leapfrogged Barcelona to the top of La Liga on Sunday after defeating Real Sociedad 2-1 at the Anoeta, with VAR making the headlines just as much as the result.

Zinedine Zidane’s side were awarded a penalty after an alleged foul on Vinicius Jnr which was converted by Sergio Ramos, while Karim Benzema continued his excellent form with a finish into the bottom corner, with his first touch very close to hitting his arm.

In between there was a disallowed goal for Real Sociedad, too, with Adnan Januzaj’s superb strike into the bottom corner ruled out as Mikel Merino was judged to be impeding the view of Thibaut Courtois while in an offside position.

So, did VAR get these decisions correct?

1. Foul on Vinicius Junior

The young Brazilian was one of Madrid’s brighter players on the night, earning a rating of 7 on FootballCritic.

With his incisive dribbles down the left wing before cutting inside, he looked a good bet to be the player to open up la Real's defence that was fairly solid in the first half.

Just three minutes after half time, he embarked on one of these signature runs and made his way into the penalty area, dancing beyond a couple of challenges before skewing a shot wide while falling to the floor.

The question is: did he need to fall to the floor? The Sociedad player involved is Diego Llorente, who does put a hand on the back of Vinicius. However, the way Vinicius goes down suggests contact on the floor from Llorente’s boot.

This isn’t the case, though, as Llorente’s right foot goes just to the right of Vinicius, meaning the only contact there is the hand on the shoulder, which when viewed in real time is not enough to warrant a fall to the floor from the Madrid man.


2. Real Sociedad’s disallowed goal

In the 68th minute, the home side thought they had equalised as Januzaj flashed a cracking left-footed strike into the bottom right corner, with Courtois taking a little too long to react down to his left.

But the celebrations were quickly curbed as the goal went to a VAR review, with those in the control room trying to decide whether Merino had impeded the view of the Belgian goalkeeper from his offside position.

From the image above, we can see that the vision of Courtois is probably impeded, but it could be argued that it is actually impaired by his own player and not necessarily Merino. Januzaj strikes the ball to the left of Courtois’ view, with Casemiro in that direct line of vision. Merino, eventually, is in his line of sight, but this is a fraction of a second after the ball is struck, meaning he had more time to react.


Benzema’s winner

Just a minute or so after that disallowed goal for Real Sociedad, they became further incensed as Benzema would score Real Madrid’s second with a clever spin and precise finish into the bottom corner.

But did he control the ball with his arm?

The above screenshot has been circulating on social media, and if that were the only evidence you would be furious if you were a la Real or Barcelona fan.

However, that particular picture is, rather conveniently, a fraction of a second after Benzema controlled the ball on his shoulder, meaning that the ball is already on the way down, making the image look like it struck him lower down the arm.

It is extremely close, but the total confusion regarding the handball rule is further muddied here. It's just not clear whether this strikes his arm, or whether the part of his body it does hit is even constituted as part of his arm under the rules.


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