EPL

VARs at centre of Liverpool error returning to duty this weekend

By Sports Desk October 17, 2023

VARs Darren England and Daniel Cook will return to Premier League duty this weekend following their error in last month’s fixture between Tottenham and Liverpool.

England and Cook were the VAR and VAR assistant respectively when Liverpool forward Luis Diaz’s goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside in Tottenham’s 2-1 home win.

Both officials were stood down the following week, but England will be back as the fourth official for Brentford’s home game against Burnley on Saturday and Cook will return as assistant referee for Sheffield United’s home match against Manchester United.

Miscommunication between VAR England and referee Simon Hooper led to Diaz’s goal being wrongly ruled out on September 30, with the incident later described by referees’ chief Howard Webb as “a clear error”.

Hooper is the designated VAR for Newcastle’s home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

New VAR guidelines were introduced in the wake of the Diaz disallowed goal controversy, while audio of the incident was later released.

England mistakenly thought the on-field officials had ruled Diaz to be onside, which meant that when he told them ‘check complete’ they believed he had upheld their on-field decision and restarted play with a free-kick.

Once play had restarted, there was nothing the VARs could do to revisit the decision under existing protocols.

Referees’ body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) said it would develop a new VAR communication protocol in an effort to avoid similar mistakes being made in future.

PGMOL said the protocol would “enhance the clarity of communication between the referee and the VAR team in relation to on-field decisions”.

VARs will now also confirm the outcome of the checking process with the assistant VAR before confirming the final decision to the on-field officials.

One of the talking points from the latest round of fixtures was referee Michael Oliver’s decision not to send off Manchester City’s Mateo Kovacic for a challenge on Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard.

The City midfielder was shown a yellow card before avoiding another shortly afterwards and Webb later admitted Kovacic was “fortunate” to stay on the pitch.

Oliver will referee Sheffield United’s home game against Manchester United on Saturday.

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    Mainoo and fellow teenager Alejandro Garnacho were on target at Wembley to deny Pep Guardiola's side the double after they secured their record-breaking fourth successive Premier League title last weekend.

    Although Erik ten Hag's job was reportedly on the line - regardless of the result - United defended brilliantly to largely keep City at bay, despite Jeremy Doku's late strike for the Citizens.

    The Red Devils subsequently held out to end a disappointing season on a high, securing a place in the Europa League next term with their first FA Cup triumph since 2016.

    And Mainoo, who was named in Gareth Southgate's provisional England squad for the forthcoming European Championship, saluted the efforts of United's players and staff.

    "[It means] absolutely everything," he told BBC Sport. "It's been a tough season of ups and downs. All the fans had to look forward to was this final. Last year, I was in the stands watching. I couldn't be involved.

    "We knew we had to come together. The staff and the players, the preparation has been amazing. We showed that we can compete, we can come together and win on such a big stage."

    Garnacho also paid tribute to his team-mate, who became the first English teenager to score in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981, while dedicating the victory to United's supporters.

    "Just incredible; I say he's the best player in the squad, and he's the youngest. I'm so happy for him," the Argentine said of Mainoo.

    "[It is an] incredible feeling. Nobody believed in us, but we are together, here with these fans. An incredible moment for us, also for me and Kobbie to score the goals, but all together, we fought like it was the last day of our lives. We're so happy.

    "The fans were incredible. They're always there – home games, away games, now Wembley. We won for the fans."

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    Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo were the heroes as Manchester United pulled off an upset to beat rivals Manchester City 2-1 in the FA Cup final.

    United boss Erik ten Hag's job was reportedly on the line whatever the result in Saturday's game, but a mix-up between Josko Gvardiol and Stefan Ortega was capitalised upon by Garnacho to hand the Red Devils the lead at Wembley Stadium.

    Mainoo's fine finish made it 2-0 shortly after, and though Jeremy Doku pulled a goal back late on, United held firm to claim the famous trophy for the first time since 2016 and deny City a double after they secured a fourth straight Premier League title last weekend.

    It now remains to be seen whether Ten Hag will suffer the same fate as compatriot Louis van Gaal, who was sacked as United boss after winning the FA Cup eight years ago.

    Pep Guardiola's men started the brighter, though it was United who went close first as Ortega got his body behind Garnacho's fierce strike.

    Garnacho was not to be denied with 30 minutes on the clock, though, as he pounced on a calamitous mix-up in the City defence.

    A long ball over the top was not dealt with by either Ortega or Gvardiol, who inadvertently nodded it beyond his goalkeeper, allowing Garnacho to tuck home into an empty net, becoming the first teenager to score an FA Cup final goal since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004.

    And another teenager in Mainoo made it 2-0 before the break at the culmination a brilliantly incisive move.

    Garnacho was involved again as he burst down the right and cut back for Bruno Fernandes, whose deft pass teed up 19-year-old Mainoo to coolly slot past Ortega.

    Erling Haaland nearly halved the deficit when he rattled the crossbar after the interval, before Andre Onana made a superb stop to keep out Kyle Walker's ferocious long-range drive.

    Onana should have done better in the 87th minute, though. United's goalkeeper got down to Doku's hopeful attempt, but could only parry it into the corner.

    Yet United ensured Onana's mistake did not prove costly, as City's hopes of a double were dashed and the Red Devils claimed a stunning victory in what could have been Ten Hag's final game at the helm.

    United's teenage daydream

    United went into the game as outsiders, a fair view considering the 31 points that separated these city rivals in the Premier League table, but the Red Devils' youngsters turned up in some style at Wembley to lead their side to glory, as well as securing European football next season.

    Garnacho scored with one of his three shots on target, more than any other player on the pitch, while Mainoo's performance did no harm to his chances of making Gareth Southgate's final squad for Euro 2024, ruthlessly finishing his only big chance and again having an impact in both defence and attack.

    Mainoo's goal also made him the first English teenager to net in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981, and he looks set to be a big fixture for both United and England for many years to come.

    De Bruyne's dismal derby day

    Kevin De Bruyne finished the Premier League season with 10 assists and four goals in just 18 appearances, but he, alongside many of City's stars, looked well off the pace here.

    De Bruyne completed an uncharacteristically low 71 per cent of his passes before Guardiola had seen enough, hauling off the Belgium international for Julian Alvarez with over half an hour left.

    City ended their league campaign with nine straight wins to seal the title, but they looked a shadow of that side this time out and will finish the season with just one trophy, after claiming a treble last term.

    Doku did make an impact after his half-time introduction, but though he managed to cut into United's lead, it was too little, too late.

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    In the first half of Saturday's FA Cup final against Manchester City, 19-year-old Garnacho capitalised on a mix-up between Stefan Ortega and Josko Gvardiol to become the first teenager to net in the competition's showpiece match since Ronaldo did against Millwall in 2004, also for the Red Devils.

    Garnacho's goal made him the third teenager to score for United in an FA Cup final after Ronaldo 20 years ago and Norman Whiteside back in 1983.

    Then, just nine minutes later, a brilliant United move ended with Bruno Fernandes laying Garnacho's pass into Mainoo, who coolly finished to double United's lead at just 19-years-old.

    Mainoo's finish means United hold a 2-0 lead at half-time against the Premier League champions, while it's also the first men's FA Cup final to see two different teenagers net. Aged just 19 years and 36 days, Mainoo is the youngest English goalscorer in the game since John Sissons for West Ham in 1964.

    Mainoo is also the first English teenager to score in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981.

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