The match of the 1/8 Champions League final between Ajax and Real will be remembered by fans for a number of reasons. First, the hosts showed courage and transcendent dedication. Throughout the meeting, they fought on equal terms with the royal club and confirmed that two draws with Bavaria in the group stage were not an accident. Secondly, the fans were struck by the exposure of the guests, who were able to cope with the pressure of their opponents and snatch the most important victory on the road, thanks to a goal from Marco Asencio. But the main thing: this meeting will take its place in history as the first one, during which the video help system for referees (VAR) was used.
It was assumed that the introduction of the system will eliminate controversial situations at key points of the meeting. Consequently, the result of the match was planned to save the referees from possible mistakes, which can be difficult to see all the smallest fragments of the episode in real time. However, the very first episode with the participation of VAR turned into a scandal.
If not key, then the most discussed moment of the meeting occurred at the 38th minute. The Ajax midfielder Lasse Schöne found the head of Matthias de Ligt with the most accurate gear from the corner. The captain has not struck the best way, but goalkeeper Thibault Courtois made a grave mistake by beating the ball straight ahead. The Belgian tried to correct the mistake, but Dusan Tadic, the striker of his rivals, was in his way, who prevented him from playing at the exit. The goalkeeper's indiscretion was taken advantage of by Nicholas Tallafiko, who with a nod of his head ferried the projectile into the net and caused delight in the stands of Johan Cruyff Arena.
However, the triumph did not last long. The assistant advised the chief arbiter of the meeting, Damir Skomin, to review the episode. After a brief meeting, the Slovenian went to a monitor located at the edge of the field, for the first time in the history of the Champions League to resort to video replay. The judge stared at the screen for a long time, after which he decided to cancel the scoring of Real Madrid.
As after the end of the meeting stated in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Slovenian referee made absolutely the right decision.
“In the 38th minute of the first match between Ajax and Real, Nicholas Tallafiko scored a goal, which was later canceled after using VAR. The judge stated that the Argentine teammate Dusan Tadic was in the “offside” position and prevented the goalkeeper from playing the ball at the moment of a header. The decision was made in accordance with the instructions of the video help system to the arbitrators. The goal was canceled correctly, and a free-kick was awarded for the offside, ”the report said on the UEFA official website.
However, expert opinion was divided. Not everyone agreed with the interpretation of the episode, despite the official explanation from UEFA. Ajax head coach Erik Ten Hag, who called Skomina’s decision a “disgrace”, spoke most harshly.
“The judges gave us several different explanations - a hindrance to the goalkeeper, offside. I saw the replay, but perhaps you need to look at another one - from a different angle. I don’t think that there was an “offside position”, Ten Haga AS quotes.
The midfielder of the Amsterdam club Frankie de Jong tried to find an explanation for the decision of the Slovenian arbitrator.
“They were great. It is a pity that our goal was canceled. Perhaps such decisions easier to take in favor of the top club. But we continued to show a good game, created moments. It’s bad that it didn’t bring us any other result, ”FourFourTwo quotes Tallafiko.
According to the midfielder, who will join the squad of Barcelona in the summer, the defeat in the home match does not negate the chances of Ajax reaching the 1/8 finals of the Champions League.
“In Spain, you need to play as boldly and confidently as at home. Nothing has been decided yet. “Real” will experience more pressure in front of the tribunes, ”de Jong added.
Not surprisingly, the players of “Real” positively evaluated the action of the referee and the debut of the VAR system in the Champions League. So, the head coach of the "creamy" Santiago Solari said that he was not going to argue with the decision of the judge, who had the opportunity to watch the replay of the episode.
“We have no means to pass judgment, no monitors. We trust the VAR and what the judges say, ”said Solari.
He admitted that the first match of the 1/8 Champions League final was real challenge for Real Madrid. But he also added that his players were ready for such a development.
“They worked, suffered and realized their moments. We did everything that was necessary, it speaks of the strength of our team. Did Real Madrid have a bad match? It is your opinion. We needed to do a lot to achieve the final result. We had to show diligence and know how to cope with pressure, ”added Solari.
Real goalkeeper Thibault Curtois was also pleased with the implementation of the VAR system in the Champions League.
“Today I made some good saves, plus I was lucky that I had VAR on my side. I think that the judge made the right decision. We were lucky that by the break “Ajax” did not open the scoring. In the second half, things went uphill, we scored a beautiful ball. This clearly discouraged Ajax, and even if the hosts restored parity, we continued to play to win, ”the UEFA press service quotes Kurtua.
However, he praised his rivals, noting the dedication and training of the opponent.
Ajax is a very energetic team that uses high pressure and tries to cherish the ball. It was difficult for us to find free space, there was no passing game. Of course, the fate of the confrontation is not yet resolved. The rival will come to Madrid to show good football and score at least twice. But we are on the move. Let's hope that this will continue, ”added the Belgian.
Among independent experts there was also no consensus on the most scandalous episode of the meeting. Thus, the famous in the past, the Spanish referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez expressed the opinion that Skomina correctly canceled the capture of the goal of “Real”.
“Tadic influenced the game. Because of him, the goalkeeper could not get to the ball, ”said an AS expert.
Alvaro Arbeloa, a former Real football player, agreed with him. He supported the decision of the Slovenian judge on Twitter.
"It is not difficult to make the right decisions," wrote Arbeloa.
The opposite opinion of the episode is held by former footballer Paulo Futra. The ex-defender of Atletico stated that the referee’s decision was erroneous and reminded him of Alvaro Morata’s canceled goal in the Madrid derby.
“In less than a week, the red and white teams stole two goals. It is absolutely clear in whose favor decisions are made if the arbitrator has even the slightest doubt, ”Futre wrote on Twitter.
Former arbitrator Juan Andujar Oliver also agreed with him, who noted that the judge had made the wrong decision.
“With each viewing of the episode, I am more and more convinced that the ball was scored according to the rules. Tadic did not interfere with Courtois. He did not influence the episode, ”the judge concluded.