KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: European football federation UEFA has leapt to the defence of its referees over the two VAR decisions which aroused  so much controversy in the Champions League midweek victories by Manchester United at Paris Saint-Germain and by Porto at home to Roma.

VAR was rushed into use by UEFA from the start of the group stage following its perceived success at the World Cup finals in Russia last year. Originally UEFA had not intended to start using VAR in its elite competition until next season.

United defeated PSG with a stoppage-time penalty converted by Marcus Rashford after being awarded – to French fury – against defender Presnel Kimpembe who had jumped and turned his back on a speculative shot from Diego Dalot. The ball struck Kimpembe’s outstretched right arm and ricocheted for a corner.

Referee Damir Skomina checks the replay for himself

Referee Damir Skomina, after being alerted by the VAR team, checked by pitchside monitor before awarded United the tie-defining spot-kick.

UEFA explained: “The VAR, after checking various different angles available to him, recommended to the referee an on-field review following the penalty area incident.

“Given that the referee did not recognise the incident clearly during live play (referred to as serious missed incident in the VAR protocol) an on-field review was conducted.

Stretching a point

“Following the on-field review, the referee confirmed that the distance that the ball travelled was not short and the impact could therefore not be unexpected.

“The defender’s arm was not close to the body, which made the defender’s body bigger thus resulting in the ball being stopped from travelling in the direction of the goal. The referee, therefore, awarded a penalty kick.”

In Portugal another penalty, this time in extra time, was decisive.

Fernando went down as he tried to meet Maxi Pereira’s low shot across the face of the goal and after studying the pitchside monitor Turkish referee Cuneyt Cahir judged his shirt had been tugged by Alessandro Florenzi.

Alex Telles converted from the spot to give Porto a 4-3 aggregate victory which prompted the resignation hours later of Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

UEFA said: “The VAR, after checking the offside line – which confirmed the attacker to be onside – asked the referee if he had seen the holding offence committed by the AS Roma defender.

“The referee confirmed he was unaware of any holding during live play and he asked for the images to be prepared to allow him to conduct an on-field review (serious missed incident).
“The review convinced the referee that a penalty kick should be awarded for a holding offence.”
UEFA concluded: “All the above-mentioned decisions were made in full compliance with the VAR protocol.”
** PSG forward Neymar – in the matchday squad list though not fit to play because of injury – faces possible disciplinary action over an abusive social media post in reaction to the penalty award.