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Ex-Premier League ref Dermot Gallagher backs VAR penalty decision in Arsenal’s win over Chelsea


Kieran Tierney was brought down by Reece James to give Arsenal a penalty (Getty)

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher believes Chelsea can have no complaints over the penalty decision in their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Boxing Day.

Referee Michael Oliver immediately pointed to the spot in the first half when Recce James brought down Kieran Tierney inside Chelsea’s area.

Subsequent replays showed that there was minimal contact between the two players, however a VAR check did not overrule Oliver’s decision and Alexandre Lacazette converted the penalty to put Arsenal ahead.

Granit Xhaka scored a free-kick to double Arsenal’s lead before the break, while Bukayo Saka found the net in the second half to put the Gunners 3-0 in front.

Tammy Abraham struck to provide Chelsea with a late lifeline but it wasn’t enough for Frank Lampard’s side.

But after the match, Gallagher believes Chelsea should not feel aggrieved over Arsenal’s first-half penalty.

‘What I would say is the guy who has got the best view is Michael Oliver, he has the view where he can see the players coming together,’ Gallagher told Premier League Productions.

Ex-Premier League ref Dermot Gallagher says Arsenal’s penalty was not a ‘clear and obvious error’ from Michael Oliver (AFP via Getty)

‘He gave it instantly. I think what you have to remember then is that when it goes to VAR, VAR is not there to decide whether he’s made the right decision or the wrong decision, he’s got to decide if it is a clear and obvious error, and I would suggest not if the referee gives it, so on that basis he sticks with the on-field decision.

‘VAR can [see an alternative view] but if you see Michael Oliver’s view, when he sees that I think he feels he [James] clips his [Tierney’s] heel and then his knee goes into the back of the leg.

‘The VAR can only decide whether it’s a clear and obvious error.

‘When you look at that, the fact we’re debating whether it is a clear and obvious error and he’s decided to stick with the on-field decision.

‘Now that’s the process and I can understand why they’ve come to that conclusion with the process.

‘One of the problems is that we think VAR will bring us utopia but it won’t, it’ll still bring debateable points and the reason it will is because VAR cannot make a decision on whether the referee is right or wrong, it can only make a decision on whether the referee has made a clear and obvious error which everybody would say is not right.

‘On this basis, when the referee has said to VAR, ‘I think he’s clipped his heel, his knee has gone into the back of his leg, that’s why I’m giving a penalty’. When you look at the footage you can’t say that didn’t happen, VAR can’t say that, therefore you’ve got to stick with the on-field decision.’

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