Ecstatic joy, then intangible disappointment. City fans were left devastated after VAR had overruled what looked like their winner in one of the most thrilling Champions League quarter-finals the competition has seen for a while. Raheem Sterling, in world-class form for weeks and months, had just given Man City a 5:4 lead on aggregate, completing his hattrick on the night and a remarkable comeback after losing at Tottenham’s new ground and going behind in the second leg as well. The game itself, tied on 2:2 after only eleven minutes, was incredible. But the the finish and all the drama related to it was overwhelming and cruel at the same time, yet somehow novel in the way it was build up. For VAR had a hand in both goals that decided this game – only that one wasn’t going to stand. These decisions are worth millions.
A fair way to decide a game?
The decisions of the VAR may not always be of such magnitude or significance. But even in the other Champions League quarter-final of the night, Porto vs Liverpool, the first goal was only awarded – it was initially chalked off for offside – after VAR gave the green light. And it was awarded rightly so. It ended all of Porto’s hopes, though and took their momentum away.
In the Man City vs Tottenham game the system took control twice. In the 73rd minute, Spurs were in desperate need of a goal and, a bit out of the blue, they got it as Fernando Llorente somehow bundled home from a corner. Amid the celebrations, referee Cüneyt Çakır got the information that VAR would make a check – and he even went to the pitchside monitor to analyse the scene himself, because there was a hint that Llorente had touched the ball with his wrist in the slightest of contacts before it hit his hip and went in. After a long check, Çakır eventually gave the goal as he had before. After that, City attacked the Spurs defence again and again without finding a breaktrough. Then came the 93rd minute, in which Sterling “scored“. Without VAR, City would have been awarded that goal and would now face Ajax Amsterdam in the semis. But VAR entered the CL in the knockout stages this season and it intervened to righly disallow the goal as Bernardo Silva had directed a mishit pass from Eriksen into the path of Agüero – who was offside.
The outcome of the game was emotionally challenging, even for fans not connected to either side. Yet, it also has consequences for the clubs. Man City’s dream of achieving an unprecedented quadruple is over, while Tottenham can still dream of winning a first ever Champions League crown. Plus, going through and going out decides over revenue the teams take from the competition.