'Comical' & 'embarrassing' – VAR dominates as Spurs thump Rochdale

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It was described as “comical” by former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas, while Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said he felt “sorry for the referee”.

It’s fair to say the video assistant referee (VAR) made quite an impact on Wednesday.

Controversy dominated the first half of Tottenham’s 6-1 win over Rochdale in their FA Cup fifth-round replay, with a goal disallowed and a converted penalty overturned.

Son Heung-min was shown a yellow card for ‘feinting’ during his spot-kick, while Spurs team-mate Fernando Llorente was adjudged to have fouled a defender in the build-up to Erik Lamela’s disallowed goal.

All this took place before the interval, six minutes were added on in stoppage time for video review delays, and fans booed as the half-time whistle was blown.

“The first half was a little bit embarrassing for everyone,” Pochettino said. “I am not sure that system is going to help.

“I think football is about emotion. If we are going to kill emotion, it’s not so happy what we have seen. My opinion is we have the best referees in Europe. The referee is the boss on the pitch and has the last word always.”

How it happened – the main VAR reviews

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Seven minutes: Fernando Llorente protects the ball for Erik Lamela, who is able to tap into the net. Referee Paul Tierney consults VAR for about a minute before the decision is made that Llorente fouled Rochdale’s Harrison McGahey in the build-up.

22: Spurs winger Lucas Moura breaks into the box, dribbles past a couple of defenders and goes down under apparent contact from McGahey. It goes to review for a minute before it is decided there was minimal contact and no penalty is awarded.

23: Son’s right-footed strike gives Tottenham the lead but there is yet another delay while VAR checks there is no reason to disallow the goal. The original decision stands.

25: Kieran Trippier is fouled by Rochdale’s Matt Done and a free-kick is awarded. There is a delay before VAR decides the offence continued into the penalty area.

29: Son scores the penalty for Spurs but Tierney blows his whistle immediately and addresses VAR. Son is shown a yellow card and is deemed to have ‘feinted’ in the run-up to his spot-kick. The goal is overturned and a free-kick is awarded to Rochdale.

31: Rochdale’s Stephen Humphrys equalises after he is played in by Andrew Cannon but there is another short delay while VAR checks there is no reason to disallow the goal.

45+5: A tackle by Erik Lamela on Callum Camps earns the Tottenham midfielder a yellow card but Tierney consults VAR to confirm whether a red card should be shown. The decision to award a yellow card stands.

47: Llorente scores and VAR is checked to ensure there is no reason to overturn the decision. The goal is awarded.

53: VAR is consulted yet again as Llorente scores Tottenham’s third goal.

65: There is another brief delay as Tottenham’s fifth goal – Son’s second – is checked by VAR. The goal stands.

‘Everyone was confused’ – what the managers said

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Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “If my opinion is important, I think there’s a lot of work to do because we need to talk to explain. I see today everyone was confused. I am for new technology but be careful how it is going to change the game.

“It’s difficult for the referee – I feel so sorry for the referee and more I feel sorry for the fans because it’s so difficult to understand the situation.”

Rochdale manager Keith Hill: “It was an education with VAR. I enjoyed it. I thought the confusion was as exciting as the way we tried to play. I understand VAR more now. I feel the referee needs protecting, it needs to be explained to the supporters.

“I knew what was going on but I do agree people in the stadium need to know what is going on. We haven’t come up with an idea of people inside the stadium knowing what’s going on.

“The supporters do need to be involved in the process. It would make the game better. Why are we hiding the decision? You have got to embrace it. I do think it will improve but we have to protect the referee.”

Pundits’ reaction

VAR sign at Wembley

Former England and Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas on BT Sport: “VAR could be so good for the game. It’s comical at times, how long it’s taking and nobody knows what’s going on.”

Mark Schwarzer on BBC Radio 5 live: “Human error will still occur with VAR, other sports have shown that, but it dramatically reduces the number of errors.

“If we can limit the errors and get the game flowing as much as we can… I think to lose some fluency is worth it to get more of the decisions right. When it’s straightforward, as it was in the second half, the referee could go through the goals quickly and there was barely a pause.

“VAR is good for the decisions the referee didn’t quite get right or maybe didn’t even see. People will still celebrate, players will still continue, but I think once we get more clarity I think it will flow better.

“My question is this, why complicate it? Why can’t we copy the rugby and the cricket? It would cut out so much confusion.”

Former Premier League referee Chris Foy on BT Sport: “What’s been misconstrued is that VAR looks at match-changing instances. Every time a goal is scored it is automatically checked. The referee feels there is a foul by Llorente in the disallowed Lamela goal. Without VAR I think that goal would have stood.”

What you had to say about VAR

Gary Lineker tweet

We asked your opinions on VAR and you weren’t shy about getting in touch.

Tony, London (about 15 minutes after the goal): Is there a maximum time after a goal has been scored that VAR can disallow it? Can I celebrate Llorente’s first goal?

Matt, London: Football has died a little for me today. Don’t underestimate the damage this does to the game. You can’t compare to rugby or cricket, as football’s unique selling point is that it’s free flowing sport with high pace and limited stoppages. If this delay ridden mess is how the future looks then you’ll have less kids putting jumpers down for goalposts in the future.

Cenzo, Fareham: They should mark fixtures that use VAR so we can avoid them. This is not football as we know it.

Former Tottenham World Cup winner

Paul: I’d sooner VAR (or the use of it) resulted in a few incorrect decisions rather than suffer an injustice of the magnitude of Lampard’s non-goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup. Defy any England fan to disagree.

Duncan, Isleworth: Despite all the criticism VAR has got every decision right. Could this match go down in history as the most perfectly officiated game of football in history?!

Chris Robins: The VAR process is farcical even when they get it right! Why don’t they learn from rugby union who have the system spot on and everybody knows what is happening!

TimDYo: Can we get a VAR decision on the VAR?

Tottenham twitter account

Charles Davie: Exactly the same luddite views about VAR were heard in cricket, tennis and rugby. It takes one season and then it’s an asset to the game. Be patient.

Martyn Pritchard: At Wembley and not one fan knows what’s going on. This is the main problem with VAR. What’s the point of paying to be at the game when you have no clue what’s going on?

Steven Shaw: From what I can see, it’s not the VAR that’s the problem, it’s the way it’s being used and the lack of communication. It’s all very well saying that mistakes are part of the game but will that still apply if those mistakes start costing your team points? I think not.

Theresa May to meet Donald Tusk ahead of Brexit 'end state' speech

Theresa May will meet top EU official Donald Tusk on Thursday, 24 hours before a major speech on British relations with the bloc after Brexit.

Her talks with the European Council president come amid tensions over the EU’s draft withdrawal treaty.

Mrs May has said the EU’s proposals on Northern Ireland threaten the UK’s constitutional integrity.

The EU says the UK needs to come up a workable alternative to their proposals – which it describes as a “backstop”.

Mrs May, due to chair a meeting of the cabinet before her talks with Mr Tusk, has already pledged not to accept the draft treaty as it stands.

The treaty proposes a “common regulatory area” after Brexit on the island of Ireland – in effect keeping Northern Ireland in a customs union – if no other solution is found.

Both the EU and the Irish government say it is up to the UK to come up with concrete alternatives to what they describe as a “backstop” option.

Mrs May has said “no UK prime minister” could ever agree to a proposal that would create a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea and that she would make that “crystal clear” to EU officials.

Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash said there were “technical ways” of managing the Irish border and accused the EU of trying to create a “constitutional crisis” for the UK.

Cabinet ministers have suggested Friday’s speech will give the EU the clarity that it has been seeking about what kind of trade relationship the UK wants after its departure on 29 March 2019.

In an apparent concession to the EU ahead of the speech, the government said EU nationals coming to the UK during a transition period after Brexit, expected to last two years, would get indefinite leave to remain.

‘A la carte’

Mrs May has said her long-term goal is a “bespoke economic partnership”, underpinned by a comprehensive free trade agreement guaranteeing tariff-free access to EU markets for British goods and services.

But her predecessor Sir John Major warned on Tuesday that an “a la carte entrance” to the European market was not possible if the UK left the single market and customs union – which Mrs May is committed to doing.

Losing existing trade advantages, he said, would make the UK a less attractive place for inward investment and could put 125,000 jobs at Japanese firms at risk.

Conservative Brexiteers have criticised Sir John’s intervention, in which he held out the possibility of another referendum on the final deal, one describing it as “un-statesmanlike” and full of “cheap comments”.

But the message will be reiterated by former Labour prime minister Tony Blair later in a speech in Brussels.

He will call for the public to have a “real choice” while urging the EU to put forward new ideas to address “genuine underlying grievances beneath the Brexit vote, especially around immigration”.

In a new report, the Commons Business Committee warned failure to reach any kind of deal would be potentially calamitous for the car industry and only close alignment with the EU would ensure its survival.

But on Tuesday the industry received a vote of confidence when Toyota said it would build the next generation of its Auris hatchback at its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, safeguarding more than 3,000 jobs.

Trump: Lawmakers 'afraid' of NRA gun lobby group

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US President Donald Trump has told a group of lawmakers not to be so “petrified” of the powerful gun lobby the National Rifle Association (NRA).

During a bipartisan meeting to discuss gun reform, Mr Trump encouraged lawmakers to come up with comprehensive legislation on the matter.

Mr Trump suggested expanding background checks for gun buyers and raising the legal age to buy rifles to 21 from 18.

He held the meeting in the wake of a school shooting that left 17 dead.

“They have great power over you people,” the president said of the NRA to his fellow Republicans on Wednesday.

“Some of you are petrified of the NRA,” he continued. “You can’t be petrified.”

Mr Trump, who was endorsed by the NRA in his 2016 presidential campaign, has treaded carefully when speaking about gun reform after the 14 February school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

He met NRA leaders over the weekend after speaking to students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the tragedy took place, as well as other families affected by school shootings in a listening session last week. He also discussed school safety with governors earlier this week.

Wednesday’s meeting came as students at the Florida school where 17 people were killed returned to classes.

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During the meeting, Mr Trump reiterated some of his earlier proposals to strengthen background checks and restrict access to weapons for the mentally ill, but also said he would consider raising the age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, an idea opposed by the NRA.

Seventeen Democrats and Republicans, some who want more gun restrictions and others who are against tightening laws, were invited by the president to the hour-long meeting about potential ways to address school safety.

“It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody can support, as opposed to – you know – 15 bills, everybody’s got their own bill,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday.

During an exchange with Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin, who have worked on a bill to strengthen background checks for gun purchase, Mr Trump asked whether they included a provision to raise the legal age to buy a gun to 21. Mr Toomey said they did not.

“You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA,” Mr Trump said.

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He also suggested the alleged Florida gunman, who police say raised several red flags before the tragedy struck, should have had his guns taken away, regardless of the law.

“I think they should have taken them away, whether they had the right or not,” the president said.

He later added: “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Mr Trump also warned lawmakers against proposing a bill that included concealed carry reciprocity among states, a provision Republicans and the NRA have aimed to include in any gun legislation.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre occurred, told the president that previous efforts to pass bills requiring strong background checks have been met with opposition because of the NRA, and warned him against underestimating the group’s power on Capitol Hill.

“The reason that nothing’s gotten done here is because the gun lobby has had a veto power over any legislation that comes before Congress,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Trump deflected the warning and said he had previously told NRA officials: “It’s time. We’ve got to stop this nonsense. It’s time.”