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VAR disallows goal in Champions League

VAR disallows goal in Champions League. A historical decision, but is it the right one? A case study from a refereeing point of view.

It’s a match situation in the game between Ajax and Real Madrid. The referee is Damir Skomina and the video referee is Szymon Marciniak. In the Uefa documentary Man in the middle Skomina says about VAR that referees have to forget their ego.

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Check out the highlights of the situation. Below you’ll find the explanation.

How VAR disallows goal in Champions League

Because it is so difficult in real-time, you need a VAR to check this moment.

De Ligt heads the ball towards the Real Madrid goal. At that moment Dusan Tadic and Nicolás Tagliafico are not in offside position yet, which means that they will not be punished for gaining advantage.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is catching the ball, but is unable to clear it. Nicolás Tagliafico goes to the ball and heads now towards the goal. The moment of that header is key here, because that’s what gives us the right decision.

Dusan Tadic is in offside position at the moment of the header.

Insight into referee and VAR communication

 It’s a pleasure to watch the Uefa documentary Man in the middle. In that series you get an insight into the the communication between VAR Marciniak and referee Skomina. That helps us with the understanding of match situations.

Here is their communication:

VAR: I am checking possible offside. I am checking possible offside.

Then we see Skomina entering the referee review area. VAR says: “Look, when the goal is scored, the Ajax player is touching the goalkeeper. He’s in an offside position”. 

Referee Skomina: “Yes”.

VAR: “Now I show you in 50% speed, okay?

Skomina says it’s okay and then disallows the goal after watching the clip. He says he is happy with this help so he’ll not be the person on the front of the newspaper, because one team is out of the tournament. “VAR is really welcome to help us.”

How can someone be in active play?

How can someone be in active play when in offside position?

Option 1: by interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate.

In this case Dusan Tadic does not touch the ball.

Option 2:  interfering with an opponent.

But how can someone interfere with an opponent? By:

  • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  • challenging an opponent for the ball or
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
  • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

There is contact between Dusan Tadic and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but is that enough? For me this action has an impact on the goalkeeper’s movements, which makes him unable to play the ball or go to the ball. For me he’s interfering with an opponent, which means the offside call is correct.

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VAR disallows goal in Champions League


  • Referee

    Hi Dutch Referee. Your first two points on interfering with an opponent misrepresent the condition in law. The law clearly links the two points together using the word “by”. Separating the two points broadens the condition significantly.

    The wording in law: “preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision”

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Good point. copying from the LOTG made them appear on two lines. But bullet three would be good here in having an impact. The explanation remains the same there.

  • Ivar Koster

    The two players are so close together that the freeze frame of the header is not a solid indication it is actually offside. My opinion is that the ref could just as easily decided that both players were on one line.

  • Jan h

    “If an attacking player remains stationary between the
    goal posts and inside the goal net as the ball enters the goal, a goal shall be awarded“

  • Akena Patrick

    I agree the attacker was in an offside position and later came from an offside position to play the ball which clearly obstruct the opponent’s line of vision.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      hi Patrick, don’t agree there. For me it’s not the line of vision that is obstructed, but it’s the ability to play the ball that has decreased due to the action off the attacker.

  • James Keenley

    I agree with every aspect of your analysis. Tadic was in an offside position, and by negatively impacting Courtois’s ability to play the ball, he was offside. The goal was correctly disallowed for that reason.

    To my mind, this incident is a perfect example of VAR working exactly as it was designed to do. You’re right, it’s very difficult to see what happened in read time, so VAR is necessary to ensure that the correct call was made.

  • Mookie Kabba

    I believe this sort of analysis and discussion is worth its weight in gold for referees. I saw the action ‘live’, but I can say in honesty that I did not see or pick up Dusan Tadic’s position on Thibaut Courtois until I saw the replay once or twice. Although it seems obvious and not at all controversial a decision after the replay, so much was happening in the box that even with a fourth referee present, VAR helped to make the decision to disallow the goal here correct. Thanks, Jan.

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