UEFA explain controversial Champions League VAR calls

Manchester United's English forward Marcus Rashford scores a penalty during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United after a VAR decision. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2019
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UEFA explain controversial Champions League VAR calls

LONDON: UEFA took the unusual step on Friday to explain a series of controversial Video Assistant Referees (VAR) calls in this week's Champions League last 16 ties.
European football's governing body bowed to pressure by bringing forward the introduction of VAR into the Champions League for the knockout rounds, having not used the technology for the group stages.
Ajax and Manchester United benefited from disputed decisions in sealing dramatic comebacks to eliminate holders Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
The handball given against PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe to award United a stoppage time penalty, which Marcus Rashford converted to complete a 3-1 win on the night at the Parc des Princes and progress on away goals, was branded "a disgrace" by injured PSG star Neymar.
Even former United players Rio Ferdinand and Michael Owen said in their roles at TV pundits the penalty should not have been awarded.
However, UEFA explained why Slovenian referee Damir Skomina reversed his original decision not to point to the spot having been alerted to watch a replay of the incident by the VAR.
"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," said UEFA's statement.
"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."
Ajax's third goal in a 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu was reviewed over whether the ball had gone out for what would have been a Madrid throw-in prior to Dusan Tadic's finish.
UEFA said referee Felix Brych was right to award the goal in the absence of conclusive proof the ball crossed the touchline.
Porto's comeback from a 2-1 first leg defeat to beat Roma 3-1 after extra-time was also marked by big VAR calls.
The Portuguese side's winner came from a penalty awarded by VAR three minutes from time.
Roma then had a penalty claim of their own turned down when Patrik Schick tumbled inside the area.
"Last year we asked for VAR in the Champions League because we got screwed in the semi-final and tonight, they've got VAR and we still get robbed," raged Roma president James Pallotta.
However, UEFA insisted on the Schick incident "no clear and obvious error had occurred and that there was no ground for a VAR intervention and an on-field review."


‘Kid was depressed’: Osaka in first clay quarter-final after ‘rough months’

Updated 49 min 21 sec ago
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‘Kid was depressed’: Osaka in first clay quarter-final after ‘rough months’

  • The Japanese star arrived in Stuttgart, where she last played as a qualifier in 2017, after suffering early exits in her last three tournaments
  • Osaka has admitted the difficulty of dealing with the trappings of fame and becoming the world’s top player in recent months

STUTTGART, Germany: World number one Naomi Osaka defeated Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 6-3 in Stuttgart on Thursday to reach her first career clay court quarter-final and admitted she had been left “depressed” after a “rough few months.”
US and Australian Open champion Osaka, who lost to Taiwanese veteran Hsieh in Miami last month, secured a place in the quarter-finals against Croatia’s Donna Vekic as she launched her preparations for Roland Garros.
The Japanese star arrived in Stuttgart, where she last played as a qualifier in 2017, after suffering early exits in her last three tournaments.
Osaka has admitted the difficulty of dealing with the trappings of fame and becoming the world’s top player in recent months, a period which saw her split with coach Sascha Bajin after the Australian Open.
“I am really grateful for everyone that has been really positive toward me. It was really rough the last couple of months. The kid was depressed out there.”
“If there is one positive thing that I can say about myself, it is that I learn quickly,” said Osaka, who reached the last eight of a tournament for the first time since her coaching split.
“Definitely I’ve put a lot on pressure on myself and found it hard to deal with in the first few tournaments.
“Now I start trying to have fun out there, which is what I did before I was number one.”
Osaka, 21, broke Hsieh three times in total to beat Hsieh for the second time in three attempts this year, having also defeated her on the way to lifting the title in Melbourne.
“I did feel like I am in control, but I also felt she is taking more risks than me,” said Osaka.
“She’s a really tricky opponent. You never really know what she’s going to do.”
Osaka needed 84 minutes to dispatch the unconventional Hsieh, ensuring she will hold on to top spot in the rankings for at least another week.
She is less than 200 points ahead of Simona Halep in the WTA rankings, although the Romanian pulled out of this week’s tournament with a hip injury.
Top seed Osaka fought off the only two break points she faced, in a lengthy service hold for 2-all in the opening set, before breaking Hsieh in the following game.
That was sufficient to wrap up the first set, and a Hsieh double-fault handed Osaka a break to start the second before she closed out victory with another service break in a performance that featured 22 winners and just 16 unforced errors.
Osaka will meet Vekic, a 6-1, 7-5 winner over Daria Kasatkina, for a spot in the last four, while Latvian seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova defeated 2017 champion Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-3.
Sevastova will meet third-ranked Petra Kvitova next.
Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2, while Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens took down Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
German number one Angelique Kerber, who won here in 2015 and 2016, takes on compatriot Andrea Petkovic later.