If anyone thought technology was going to cut away the controversy from Italian football, they were sorely mistaken. On a night that should have been about two of the brightest realities of Serie A, we ended up with our painfully-familiar query. To VAR or not to VAR?
It was not meant to end this way. On Diego Maradona’s birthday and in front of Marek Hamsik, everything looked set for Napoli to put their upstart opponents in their place. Arek Milik even channeled his inner Pibe de Oro to round the goalkeeper and finish in a fair imitation of the club’s most famous No 10. But then the video did - or rather didn’t - enter into play.
The infuriating thing is that it overshadowed a lovely game of football and a cracking equaliser from Josip Ilicic. Looking at replays, the move started with a tussle between Simon Kjaer and Fernando Llorente, which the home side felt was a foul. Even Carlo Ancelotti, normally an apostle of aplomb, lost his cool. Despite sustained appeals, the referee did not go back to look again at the lead-up to the goal.
It had echoes of the fiery finish to Fiorentina versus Lazio just a few days ago, when the Viola felt their opponents’ winner ought to have been reviewed on screen - but it was not. Mind you, nor was a pretty loud penalty claim from their visitors either. The rules and regulations may have been explained to everyone but, it would appear, either not everyone has understood them or believes they are being followed.
Of course, we all know that while the technology is brilliant for finding out whether a ball crossed the line or a man was offside, it is not capable of deciding what a clear and obvious error might be. That part still lies with a human and they are, unfortunately, all too fallible. This drives fans, players and Coaches to distraction on occasion. It produced the kind of heated conclusion at the San Paolo that we hoped might be a thing of the past.
What is irritating in the extreme is that this clash to decide who had the right to hang on to Inter and Juve’s coattails had been a thing of beauty up to that point. Some of the interplay between Napoli pair Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon, plus Atalanta duo Papu Gomez and Ilicic, had been a joy to watch. And as for Fabian Ruiz, he just added another £10m or so to his ever-escalating market value.
Maybe, when the dust settles, we will say that a draw was a fair result between two great teams to watch. It is hard to think, however, that many fans of the Partenopei will see it that way. And the problem will be in a few hours or days or weeks when a similar situation arises and a goal is ruled out by VAR for a foul at the move’s inception. To err is human, for sure, but to forgive is probably beyond most of us football fans.
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