Sports

Juventus deserve answers for VAR mess, Barcelona win big, Bayern Munich shouldn’t worry, more


The Premier League was off this weekend because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and Europe’s other big leagues took center stage, providing plenty of talking points on the pitch. Juventus made a late comeback only for VAR to misfire in the worst way, Bayern Munich dropped more points, Barcelona racked up another huge win and Rodrygo stepped up for Real Madrid following an injury to Karim Benzema. There were also flashpoints for Milan, RB Leipzig, Napoli and more.

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It’s Monday, and Gab Marcotti reacts to the biggest moments in the world of football.

Jump to: Juve VAR drama | Bayern should ignore the haters | Premier League postponed | Barca win big | Milan grab points, Leao red card | Rodrygo steps up for Real Madrid | Inter win late | PSG sneak a win | Atletico’s romp | Leipzig smash Dortmund | Napoli keep winning | #BasDostWatch


However subpar they were, Juventus were hurt by VAR horror show and deserve transparency

The script was nicely laid out. Max Allegri’s Juventus had laid on another stinker against Salernitana and were 2-0 down at home at half-time — the first time this had happened in 18 years. It wasn’t just the scoreline, it was their putrid performance that stood out, but a Bremer header halved the deficit early in the second half and in the third minute of injury time, Tonny Vilhena‘s rash challenge on Alex Sandro resulted in a penalty.

Up stepped the skipper Leo Bonucci, the big man taking responsibility for the big occasions: goalkeeper Luca Sepe saved his shot, but Bonucci poked it back over the line.

Report: Juve denied by VAR in chaotic Salernitana draw

At that point, the reaction piece would have been all too predictable: Allegri’s Juve still aren’t firing, but they have plenty of pride and guts, and they battle until the very end and grind out results. Allegri would have made some spiky, snarky comment after the game, noting how they’re doing better than last season and were only X points off the top, and most of us would have at least praised Juve’s belief and intensity with their backs to the wall.

Except, of course, we’re not talking about that. Instead, we’re talking about one of the worst VAR-assisted decisions we’ve seen since it was introduced to Serie A.

A minute or so after Bonucci made it 2-2, Juventus had a corner kick. Arkadiusz Milik directed it goal-ward, Bonucci, in the 6-yard box, attempted to deflect it, but failed to make contact, with the ball ending up in the back of the net. Cue joy all round the Juventus Stadium, with Milik ripping off his shirt in celebration (and getting sent off because in the heat of the moment he forgot that he’d already received a yellow card) and the two teams returning to the center circle to play out what they thought would be the final seconds.

Juve had done it again… except there would be a twist.

Referee Matteo Marcenaro, who is 29 and was taking charge of only his sixth career Serie A game, was called to the monitor for an on-field review by the VAR Luca Banti who, on the other hand, is very experienced. We’re not privy to what exactly was said, but Marcenaro reacted by disallowing the goal and according to reports, it was because Banti suggested that Bonucci was standing in an offside position and was interfering with an opponent, the goalkeeper, Sepe.

That’s Part I and if that’s all you saw, you’d have plenty of reasons to be angry if you’re a Juve fan. Bonucci apparently was in an offside position (more of this later) and shouldn’t have gone for the ball, but given Sepe was looking in the direction of Milik’s header, it’s hard to argue that he was in any way interfering. Sepe doesn’t even see him until the last second, and he in no way reacts to Bonucci’s presence.

You’d think that would be the biggest blunder, and you’d be disappointed that a young referee like Marcenaro came to that conclusion, while wondering whether he was too deferential to the older VAR Banti. But worse was to come, because within minutes, images started doing the rounds suggesting that Bonucci wasn’t offside at all and, therefore, it was irrelevant whether or not he was interfering with play. That’s because pictures started doing the rounds showing that Salernitana’s Antonio Candreva, who was by the corner flag in case it was played short, was clearly playing Bonucci onside.

You needed a wide-shot angle from the camera at the 18-yard box to see it, but it was pretty freaking obvious once you saw it. And yet VAR completely ignored this.

Weekend Review: Premier League pause, VAR trips Juventus

The way VAR works, there are video technicians supplying the VAR crew with the relevant replays and they can of course request angles too. Were the angles unavailable to them? Did they not think they’d be relevant because they didn’t notice Candreva’s starting position? (If it’s the latter, let’s not forget that in addition to VAR, there are linesmen out there too whose sole job is to look across the line for offside.)

All of Italian football — and, of course, especially Juventus — need answers here. We know one or more people screwed up badly: the best thing the referees’ association can do here is own it, apologise and move on. People make mistakes, but what never helps in these situations is silence.

The whole VAR incident also means less attention gets paid to Juve’s performance, which might suit Allegri just fine. Indeed, after the match, when told that Juve had played poorly in the first half, he said “that’s the problem: you people watch without seeing.”

None of it changes the fact that the bianconeri need to improve in double-quick time. The current setup isn’t working; there’s no point having a guy like Dusan Vlahovic out there if you don’t send service his way. It might be time to consider a permanent move to the 3-5-2 formation (which would suit Filip Kostic as well) like the one we saw against PSG.


Three straight draws for Bayern, but Nagelsmann should ignore the haters

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Janusz Michallik speaks after Bayern Munich’s 2-2 draw with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.

OK, so Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Stuttgart means Bayern haven’t actually won a Bundesliga game since Aug. 21. Three straight draws means six dropped points — I get it — but it’s also worth keeping a modicum of perspective. In two of those three games (against Gladbach and Union Berlin) they actually dominated, ran into a standout opposing keeper performance and reaped far less than they sowed. Against Stuttgart, they were less effective, but even then they outshot the opposition 19 to 7, they held a 1.97 to 1.16 xG lead and conceded the equaliser from the penalty spot only after Matthijs De Ligt’s ill-timed challenge on Serhou Guirassy.

And lest we forget, this was with Julan Nagelsmann opting to rest Sadio Mane and Leroy Sane initially ahead of the Champions League clash with Barcelona. This isn’t grounds for overreaction, by any stretch, not when the top of the table is just two points away.

Bayern paid a steep price for an individual error, just like they did in the previous draws. That’s all it is. And along the way, they also blooded Mathys Tel, the 17-year-old wunderkind who became the club’s youngest-ever goal scorer. Like I often say, worry when you don’t create chances and concede plenty in front of your own goal. This isn’t what’s going wrong for Bayern right now.


Monarch’s passing postpones Premier League

The death of Queen Elizabeth II prompted the Premier League and Football League to postpone all their weekend games as a mark of respect. Not everyone agreed — rugby, cricket and golf went ahead, dedicating their events to the queen — but in these situations, there’s often no clear-cut choice. (There were plenty of suggestions that the decision was also motivated by public order concerns, since police resources were stretched.)

Olley: How Premier League came to a stop as nation mourned death of Queen Elizabeth II

From a strict Premier League perspective, however, this means that an already brutally congested fixture list got even tighter. There simply aren’t that many free dates between now and the end of the campaign and if English clubs go deep in European competition (as they usually do), we could be facing a serious problem come the spring.


Barcelona win 4-0 at Cadiz, but some things matter more…

The enduring image of Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Cadiz has nothing to do with anything Robert Lewandowski or Ousmane Dembele did. It was Cadiz keeper Jeremias “Konan” Ledesma sprinting across the pitch carrying a defibrillator kit and tossing it into the stands.

Ledesma sprang into action after his teammates interrupted play because a spectator was feeling unwell in the stands. Play was interrupted for roughly an hour and most importantly, authorities confirmed the fan was going to be OK. Meanwhile, those watching — both at the Nuevo Mirandilla and around the world — were reminded that football takes a back seat to life. As it should be.

Report: Lewandowski strikes again as Barca beat Cadiz
Reaction: Gavi pulls the strings for Barcelona

As for the game itself, there was an evident sea-change in the 57th minute. Frenkie de Jong had just scrambled in Barca’s opener and, at one-nil, Xavi made a triple substitution: off went Gavi, Ferran Torres and Memphis Depay, on came Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Lewandowski. Cadiz having to chase the game helped Barca, sure, but the leap in quality made even more of a difference as they romped to victory.

It’s not that Xavi’s crew were subpar before that, it’s just that they had many more gears to go through after the change. Given how the fixture list shapes up this year, you can expect more of this.


Rafael Leao sent off, but Milan grab points at Sampdoria

Milan haven’t always played well this season, but they’ve generally stayed in games and found a way to keep the energy level up even when the quality went missing. It’s a hallmark of Stefano Pioli’s regime, and it’s how you win titles.

In this game, the damage was self-inflicted as Rafael Leao was sent off for two bookable offences. The second, frankly, was entirely avoidable: he attempted an overhead kick when he knew there was an opponent right behind him, ended up making contact with him and got his marching orders.

Milan need better decision-making from Leao. You don’t want to discourage players trying something difficult, but he was unlikely to score from where he was and, crucially, he seemed to forget that he has a duty of care toward his opponent. There’s no reason to put yourself in that situation when you’re one of the most important players in the team.

The upshot is that he’ll be suspended and will miss the big clash with Napoli next weekend.


Rodrygo stakes his claim for Real Madrid in 4-1 home win

Carlo Ancelotti made five changes for the weekend visit of Mallorca, but it was up front where things were most intriguing. He opted to play Eden Hazard through the middle, with Rodrigo and Vinicius Junior either side. And as has happened so often with the Belgian, results were wanting to the point that at the hour mark, Madrid shuffled things around and he made way for Luka Modric, with Rodrygo moving to a more central role.

Report: Real Madrid 4-1 Mallorca

It’s fair to say the Brazilian made it his own, too. He set up Vinicius with a delightful assist to make it 2-1 and scored a peach of a goal of his own with a dazzling stop-start run through the Mallorca back line. Rodrygo though the middle in Karim Benzema‘s absence is not a long-term solution — not least because, in many situations, Ancelotti will need him out wide — but when he’s playing like this, it doesn’t really matter.

Elsewhere, Madrid looked largely solid. Dani Ceballos got the job done in the middle — he’s neither Casemiro nor Aurelien Tchouameni, but when Real have this much possession, it doesn’t matter — and Fede Valverde scored after a blistering run with a weak-footed, long-range strike.

Reaction: Valverde, Rodrygo too good in Real Madrid romp

The mood is decidedly buoyant; the only regret is that, again, they failed to keep a clean sheet.


“Broz” delivers vs. Torino to get Inter out of a jam

Until Marcelo Brozovic latched on to Nicolo’s Barella’s sublime pass in the 89th minute, Inter were on the verge of failing to win for the fourth time in the past five games. But more than the result, what would have been worrying — and what is worrying — was the performance. Against Torino, they mustered just three shots on target, including the goal, and Sami Handanovic had to make a number of saves.

That said, Handanovic has been criticised (again) this season and some saw Andre Onana starting against Bayern as a harbinger that his days are numbered. Maybe the odd benching will help him stay on top of his game. If he performs like he did on Saturday, Onana will have to wait his turn.


Big guns fire, others less so for PSG

A delicious, turn-back-the-clock assist from Lionel Messi (not his only one, either) set up Neymar for the only goal in Paris Saint-Germain‘s 1-0 win over Brest. But it took two big saves from Gianluigi Donnarumma — one off a penalty, the other from an Islam Slimani strike — for PSG to take home the three points, and that should be a cause for concern for manager Christophe Galtier.

Because while it’s true that there was some rotation and that at least his stars got it done (except for Kylian Mbappe, who had an off-day by his standards), he needs his blue-collar troops to perform too. Otherwise sides like Brest, who are battling to avoid relegation, will come within a whisker of taking points off them at the Parc des Princes, like they did Saturday.


Still no 90-minute performance from Atletico Madrid despite 4-1 win

Things were set up nicely for Atletico Madrid at home to Celta Vigo. They made a half-dozen changes from the dramatic midweek win in the Champions League against Porto and when Angel Correa opened the scoring, you imagined that they would manage the lead: sit tight, hit on the counter, limit the opposition. Except that’s not what happened. Celta came at them and had a host of chances to equalize, before Rodrigo De Paul sent them on their way after the break.

Diego Simeone had the luxury of sending on quality in the shape of Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann — yes, he came on after minute 60, nothing to see here — but you can’t rely on that every game. This side is still not clicking the way “El Cholo” wants or, if they’re going to challenge, needs.


Dream start for Marco Rose’s RB Leipzig against his old team

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Janusz Michallik speaks after Gio Reyna was used as a substitute in Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 loss to RB Leipzig.

It’s not really a secret that Marco Rose and Borussia Dortmund didn’t exactly part ways on good terms. There was plenty of blame to go around for the way it didn’t work out, of course, but you can only imagine his glee when his new club, Leipzig, unleashed a 3-0 beatdown on Dortmund this Saturday.

Report: Leipzig thrash Dortmund in Rose’s dream debut

There’s endless debate about whether there is such a thing as a “new manager bounce” and, indeed, you can only wonder how much work Rose could have done in the three days since he replaced the sacked Domenico Tedesco and Saturday’s kickoff. Other than giving Emil Forsberg his first start of the campaign, Leipzig didn’t look that different, but there was a cutting edge that wasn’t there before. Timo Werner opened the scoring and could have had a hat-trick (we’ve seen this before), while Dominik Szoboszlai scored a long-range wonder goal.

Oh, and Dortmund were awful.

The club’s perpetual alibi — injuries — applies here of course, but this was as one-sided a meltdown as we’ve seen under Edin Terzic. It’s not so much the injuries; it’s that the lack of rotation means the same guys keep playing and, as a result, they’re already looking fatigued. The good news is that, given the way this Bundesliga season has begun, they’re still just two points off the top, but Terzic needs to start coming up with solutions.


No “Kvaramania” this time, but late Raspadori strike keeps Napoli going

Napoli made a bunch of changes after their Champions League win against Liverpool, but that’s not the reason they didn’t score until the final minute against Spezia. Blame it on the heat, and blame it on some subpar finishing (they did take 28 shots on goal).

The breakthrough came from Giacomo Raspadori who is Victor Osimhen‘s backup (the Nigerian international is injured) on paper, but in practice is Luciano Spalletti’s “change-of-pace” forward. Raspadori was called a poor man’s Sergio Aguero earlier in his career, and that might be a stretch. But he has that drive to operate in tight spaces and, crucially for a forward, he forgets about his misses and stays focused on the next chance.


And finally…

Bas Dost started for Utrecht and scored in their 1-0 home victory against Vitesse Arnhem. He now has five goals in six appearances for Utrecht, and is on pace to score 28 goals in the Eredivisie.

This concludes the latest instalment of #BasDostWatch.



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