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VAR Hits A New Low: Juventus-Salernitana Game Ends With Referee Nightmare

In what looked to be an unassuming clash between Italian giant Juventus and newly promoted Salernitana, VAR got all the headlines for all the wrong reasons. A 2-2 draw saw both sides take a point away from the match, but the Turin-based club will feel hard done after new images came out revealing the officiating crew made an appalling mistake, costing Juve two points.

After a terrible match from Juventus, which is quickly not becoming news, the Bianconeri looked saved at the death by the most dramatic of circumstances. Leonardo Bonucci missed a late penalty but scored the rebound before new signing Arkadiusz Milik struck from a corner to seemingly give Juventus a 3-2 lead in the game’s final minute. 

From there, all hell broke loose.

Milik earned himself a second yellow card and subsequent red after removing his shirt to celebrate his supposed winner. Without protest, he marched down the tunnel and the rest of the players began lining up for the kick-off, before the center official, Matteo Marcenaro, began running towards the VAR monitor, catching everyone by surprise. 

A fight broke out involving both teams and Marcenaro issued red cards to Salernitana defender Federico Fazio and Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado for their involvement in the melee.

Finally, in the 98th minute, Marcenaro managed to make it to the VAR monitor to examine Milik’s goal for a possible offside. On the screen was an angle of the field showing the penalty area at the moment Milik’s shot left his head, in which it appeared Bonucci was in an offside position.

The referee took about eight seconds and decided that even though Bonucci did not make contact with the ball, his position impacted the goalkeeper and therefore, the goal was disallowed for offside. 

Except, Bonucci wasn’t offside. He wasn’t even close. 

Salernitana midfielder Antonio Candreva was not on the screen in the replay Marcenaro was shown; he was in the corner, but crucially he was keeping the Juventus captain onside by about half a yard.

The Juventus players implored the officiating crew and head coach Massimiliano Allegri even earned himself a red card for his protestations. In all, Juve missed out on two points and will now face Monza next week without Milik, Cuadrado and Allegri. 

The following day, the AIA, which is the official referee association for Italian soccer, issued a statement, saying, “The VAR refereeing team did not have at their disposal the image of Candreva keeping Bonucci onside on the Milik 3-2 goal.”

Many have called for the red cards to be rescinded, but this is highly unlikely to occur. 

With Milik’s dismissal, the precedent has been set that if a player removes their shirt and is carded for it, the card stands, regardless of VAR’s decision to overturn the goal, be it correct or not.

The ensuing brawl, which resulted in Cuadrado and Fazio seeing red, occurred before the goal was even checked, meaning those are also likely to stand. Finally, Allegri’s red will also likely stand as the AIA will certainly protect its officials and maintain that dissent towards a referee is never to be justified, even in the event of an incorrect decision.

The draw means Juventus now sits in eighth-place with 10 points after six games. Its run of four wins and two draws means Juve remains one of four unbeaten teams in Serie A, but they're still four points off league leaders Napoli.

A Champions League game midweek against Benfica will prove a difficult test for Allegri’s men as they attempt to find their form before the trip to Monza at the weekend. With the condensed schedule due to the World Cup in November, a poor run of form could prove costly, and every dropped point will be crucial come the end of the season.

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