Sydney FC may have continued their impressive form with a comfortable 3-0 victory over the Perth Glory to reach the A-League Grand Final this Sunday, but that is not what the game at the Allianz Stadium will be remembered for.
In a world first in domestic football, a “video assistant referee” (VAR) was used to overturn incorrect decisions on the field. That resulted in two Sydney goals, originally disallowed by the on-field officials, being awarded by the VAR, which gave Sydney an insurmountable 3-0 lead at the break.
The technology has been a polarising game-changer having been introduced in the Al-League at the start of last month, with Sydney earlier beneficiaries, earning a penalty against Wellington Phoenix after a foul previously been missed by the referee.
Having previously been trialled live at two international friendlies last September and in March, FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed last week, the system will be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia; he will be hoping things run a little smoother than these slightly confused scenes.
Sydney opened the scoring on 21 minutes with a spectacular 30-yard strike from Josh Brilliante, before the VAR controversy erupted.
In the 37th minute defender Jordy Buijs beat three defenders with a stunning run before thumping the ball past Glory keeper Liam Reddy. But the assistant adjudicated that Brazilian striker Bobo was offside, and disallowed the goal.
However, the VAR intervened and after a lengthy review, he overruled the on-field decision, saying that Bobo did not interfere with play.
The Glory players were incensed and they had further cause for anger soon after. In the shadows of half-time Filip Holosko’s (below) header was disallowed before it was proven to be onside by replays, and the VAR again overturned referee Peter Green’s call, giving the Sky Blues a commanding 3-0 lead.
Within minutes of the second half it was nearly 4-0 when Bobo met a cross from Milos Ninkovic, powering his header past Reddy, but this time, the VAR allowed the on-field offside ruling to stand.
After the match, when all the talk should have been about Sydney being one step away from the greatest ever A-League season, the chat instead was about the VAR. Glory forward Andy Keogh blasted the officiating, calling it “dubious refereeing”.
“Bobo was interfering,” he said. “The pass was meant for him, he was offside, he then interfered with Dino Djulbic to stop the block. Don’t know how that can’t be ruled – it’s the whole point of having video referees.”
The VAR decisions sparked explosive debate on social media too, but former Manchester United and Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich praised the calls as correct on the basis Djulbic would never have gotten to the ball in time.
“He knows he’s not going to get there and runs into the back of Bobo to make it look like interference,” Bosnich said. “It’s exactly what the VAR is there for.”
After a lean season in 2015/16, coach Graeme Arnold re-shaped and remoulded his squad bringing in Socceroos centreback Alex Wilkinson, left back Michael Zullo, Brillante and goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.
He also retained the services of Slovakian striker Filip Holosko, and Serbian playmaker Milos Ninkovic. His biggest coup however was bringing in Brazilian striker Bobo on a one-year marquee deal, rejoining his former Besiktas team-mate Holosko.
And Arnold clearly got it right as was seen at last night’s A-League Awards where he was named Coach of the Year, Ninkovic Player of the Year and Vukovic Keeper of the Year; in a campaign where Sydney can lay claim to being the greatest A-League side having set numerous records including: most competition points (66), largest regular season winning margin (17 points), most wins in a season (20), most clean sheets (16) plus a 19-match unbeaten run.
In the other semi-final Melbourne Victory edged out Brisbane Roar through a solitary goal for top scorer Besart Berisha, but Sydney will start firm favourites this Sunday – VAR or not.
David Villa’s best years for Valencia, Barcelona and Spain may be behind him, but he’s still capable of producing moments of world-class skill – as he proved once again in the Major League Soccer (MLS).
A clinical striker to say the least, Villa’s right foot has proven to be a nightmare for goalkeepers throughout his stunning career.
And on Friday, the 35-year-old scored a beauty from the halfway line for New York City FC against Philadelphia Union at the Talen Energy Stadium.
What’s more is that the goal was struck from 53.5 yards away, making it the longest goal scored by an MLS player since at least 2012. Now isn’t that just extra-ordinary?
Speaking after the New York side’s 2-0 win, Villa said: “I was a little tired from running, so I tried to score a goal.”
Well, all we can say is, ‘El Guaje’, you don’t need to run, if you can do that.
Life could have been so different.
What if our football stars weren’t football stars? What if they played some other sport? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Many of the world’s biggest footballers almost ended up in other sports.
In this list, featuring Manchester United stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, Copa90‘s video takes you through 10 players that nearly pursued other sporting careers.
Can you recall any other footballer who could have made it in another sport?