VAR took centre stage once again in another thrilling weekend of Premier League action, with unpunished rough tackles and controversial penalty calls at the centre of the talking points.
Chelsea and Manchester City’s thrilling 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge started with a controversial penalty awarded for a foul on Erling Haaland by Marc Cucurella.
Meanwhile, VAR chose not to give a red card to Liverpool’s Wataru Endo for a high challenge on Brentford captain Christian Norgaard, while Brighton’s Mahmoud Dahoud was sent off for a stamp in the Seagulls’ 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.
Sky Sports takes a look at each individual talking point from this weekend…
Man City’s ‘soft’ penalty
Midway through the first half of Chelsea’s game with Manchester City, Anthony Taylor awarded City a penalty after Cucurella had adjudged to have tugged on Haaland’s shirt in the box. The decision went to VAR, who stuck with Taylor’s call.
Reacting to the incident at half-time, Sky Sports pundit Micah Richards said: “It’s soft and the Chelsea fans will feel aggrieved, but it’s not a clear and obvious mistake.
“When Cucurella initially puts his arm on Haaland, that is fine. But it just carries on. And because it was given on field, I don’t think it’s a clear and obvious mistake. VAR has to then give the penalty.”
Analysing the incident after the game, Jamie Carragher added: “I just felt for Cucurella. There’s no doubt he starts it by keeping it tight with Haaland. We’ve all been there as a defender. But Haaland doesn’t throw him to the floor but uses his power.
“I can understand why VAR haven’t overturned it but I just felt for him, maybe being a defender in that situation. Both of them were doing the same thing.”
De Zerbi: I don’t like most English referees
Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi admitted he does not like “80 per cent of English referees” after his side were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United.
The Seagulls were winning 1-0 when Mahmoud Dahoud was sent off for an inadvertent stamp on Blades midfielder Ben Osborn.
United levelled three game five minutes later and De Zerbi was booked by referee John Brooks for his touchline demeanor.
De Zerbi said the decision to send Dahoud off was the right one within the rules, but had a general complaint about VAR refereeing standards due to the “behaviour” of officials.
“I am honest and clear. I don’t like 80 per cent of England’s referees,” said De Zerbi after the game.
“It’s not a new thing. I don’t like them. I don’t like their behaviour on the pitch. I have to think only of my players. It’s not my job. I accept everything.
“Now I am working in England and I speak only about these referees. It’s not correct if I speak about other referees.
“England is the only country where there is VAR and you are not sure the decision is right. In other countries, you have to be sure 100 per cent. In England, no. I am not able to understand.”
Frank fumes as Liverpool’s Endo escapes red card
With Liverpool leading 1-0 against Brentford at Anfield in the second half, Wataru Endo’s challenge on Brentford midfielder Christian Norgaard was looked at by VAR.
Referee Paul Tierney did not even give a foul when Endo tackled Norgaard in the 54th minute, though VAR Stuart Atwell delayed the restart of the game to look at the challenge.
Atwell stuck with Tierney’s original decision and Endo escaped further punishment.
Reacting to the incident, Brentford manager Thomas Frank said the Liverpool midfielder should have received a red card based on previous red card incidents, including Curtis Jones’ red for Liverpool at Tottenham, and Marcus Rashford’s dismissal against FC Copenhagen last week.
“My look is that first and foremost, on the pitch it was a clear foul and a yellow card,” Frank told Sky Sports after the game. “But in the old days, and I’m not that old but let’s say five years ago, it was never a red. A yellow probably on the pitch, but these days with the VAR and the way they are being reffed, then I think it’s a red.
“If you look at the slow-motion footage that you use, then it’s clear studs on leg and he’s definitely going over the ball with too much force, Endo on Christian. And then you can look at the four bloody marks on his leg! With that in mind, I just want consistency.
“These examples I’m giving now, I don’t think they should be red cards. But the way it is now, then they’re definitely reds.
“The Curtis Jones against Tottenham, the Rashford against FC Copenhagen, the Josh Dasilva one for us on against Newcastle and then this, if this the level they want to put it into, then it’s a red.”
Should Eze have won another penalty?
Eberechi Eze had already earned an early penalty for Crystal Palace in their 3-2 home loss to Everton, but with the score at 1-1, the England international went down again under the challenge of Jarrad Branthwaite in the first half.
Eze was booked for diving by the referee, something that Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson strongly disputes.
“Eberechi doesn’t simulate. Whether it was a penalty or not I don’t know, but it wasn’t simulation,” Hodgson said after the game. “We don’t seem to like grey, it’s either a penalty or it’s simulation. But it could actually be neither.”
Reacting to the incident live, Sky Sports pundit Sue Smith said: “We thought it would be another penalty to Palace. Eze is so sharp. I’ve watched it a few times, and I’m still not sure. The referee straightaway called it as an act of simulation.”
Former Premier League referee Mike Dean added: “Branthwaite shows his leg and Eze tries to kick it. Fair play to the referee, it’s only his fourth Premier League game.”
Asked about the incident himself, Eze said: “It could have been given, but more than that, I feel we should have taken our chances so I’m more focused on that.”
Watch former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher analyse the weekend’s officiating talking points on Ref Watch, live on Sky Sports News on Monday morning at 11.30am.