VAR system back in spotlight following controversy in Portugal and Spain games

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The Video Assistant Referee system at the World Cup is in the spotlight once again following a controversial penalty decision in Portugal’s draw with Iran which Alan Shearer has described as “ludicrous”.

Portugal had looked set to progress to the last 16 as winners of Group B after Ricardo Quaresma’s superb first-half goal saw them leading 1-0 going into stoppage time in Saransk.

However, with time almost up, Iran were awarded a penalty after Portugal defender Cedric Soares was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area as he challenged for a cross.

RKarim Ansarifard
Karim Ansarifard nets Iran’s equaliser following a controversial penalty decision (Darko Bandic/AP)

Former England captain Shearer was astonished the penalty was given, saying such decisions are turning football into an “absolute farce”.

“If he thinks that’s a deliberate handball then he’s crazy,” the BBC pundit said during the post-match analysis.

Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer was highly critical of the decision to award Iran a penalty (Steve Drew/Empics)

“That was my fear coming into this tournament, that you’re going to get decisions like this. It turns the game into an absolute farce.”

He added: “It’s nonsense, it’s utter nonsense. He had a clear view from 12 yards away and didn’t think it was a penalty. I’m trying to keep calm without swearing. I’m getting angry here because that’s just a ludicrous decision.”

Referee Enrique Caceres
Referee Enrique Caceres goes to watch the VAR during the Group B match between Iran and Portugal (Darko Bandic/AP)

There were two other incidents earlier in the same match, with Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo awarded a 53rd-minute penalty after referee Caceres had a second look at Morteza Pouraliganji’s clumsy challenge on him.

Ronaldo, who saw his spot-kick saved by Ali Beiranvand, was also later the subject of a VAR red card review after he was caught apparently taking a swing at Pouraliganji off the ball – he was eventually shown yellow.

The VAR system also played a key role in Monday night’s other Group B match between Spain and Morocco.

Spain were on course for a shock defeat, trailing 2-1 with 90 minutes up, when substitute Iago Aspas flicked the ball into the net.

The offside flag was immediately raised but, after video analysis, the goal was subsequently given and the 2010 world champions escaped with a 2-2 draw in Kaliningrad.

Spain now play hosts Russia in the knockout stages, with Portugal facing Group A winners Uruguay.

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