Manchester City’s man of the moment Raheem Sterling has been banging in the goals but one comical moment in the 6-0 Champions League trouncing of Shakhtar Donetsk brought a major failing into sharp focus.
The Englishman apologised to Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai after winning a farcical penalty that was clearly not a foul — he tripped over the pesky grass leading to social media quips calling for the offending blades to be sent off — in Wednesday’s clash at the Etihad.
“I went to chip the ball and don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel contact. I scuffed the ball. Apologies to the ref,” Sterling said.
His coach Pep Guardiola addressed the bigger issue: the need for video assistant referees (VAR) in Europe’s biggest competition.
City manager Guardiola agreed that the referee got it very, very wrong and VAR would help clear up such incidents.
“We realised it wasn’t a penalty. We don’t like to score in that situation,” said Guardiola. “You know VAR and what it is — the referee must be helped because they don’t want to make mistakes.
“The game is so quick, so fast these days. It would take 10 seconds for somebody to say something to the referee.”
The incident is the latest in a long line of questionable decisions by officials in Europe’s leading competition and they could simply be avoided with the implementation of VAR.
It was good enough for the World Cup in Russia over the summer and it is good enough for the majority of Europe’s big domestic leagues (tut, tut England! Get a move on) so why can’t Uefa greenlight its use in its flagship tournament.
Granted, Shakhtar were soundly dismantled by City the other night and the penalty was fairly immaterial to the result, but a dodgy decision in a tight Champions League final will not be forgiven or forgotten in a hurry, especially now we have the technology to assist the refs.
Pull your finger out, Uefa.