When VAR was introduced to the domestic and international game, it was hoped that the quality of decisions would be optimised while the burden placed on referees would be lessened.
However, it has managed to cause significant issues and debate in its relatively short lifespan, with a number of goals controversially ruled out and ongoing confusion about how the rules are applied.
It’s also interesting to note that VAR would have ruled out some of the EPL’s most iconic goals through history. So, let’s take a look at these goals and try to imagine a world without them!
1. Didier Drogba – Chelsea v Manchester United, 2010
With six league games remaining in the 2009/10 season, Manchester United held a slender one-point advantage over Chelsea ahead of their potentially crucial game at Old Trafford.
However, they’d recently lost the talismanic Wayne Rooney to injury, while Chelsea had ominously hit top gear with a 7-1 thrashing of Aston Villa in their previous outing.
The Blues certainly looked much sharper in the opening exchanges at Old Trafford, with Joe Cole’s inventive flick affording them a deserved lead just 20 minutes in. However, as United pressed for an equaliser, Didier Drogba received a neat pass from Salomon Kalou’s to fire a rising drive past Edwin Van Der Sar with just 11 minutes to go.
Incredibly, the Ivorian was at least a yard offside when he received the pass, but the goal stood and proved decisive in a 2-1 win. What’s more, Chelsea retained their advantage until the end of the season to win the title by a single point.
2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Manchester United v Sunderland, 2016
On Boxing Day, 2016, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United hosted Sunderland at Old Trafford.
Goals from Daley Blind and Zlatan Ibrahimovic had secured the Reds a comfortable 2-0 lead with just four minutes to go, but there was still time for one of the Premier League’s most iconic finishes.
It was Antonio Valencia who slipped in Ibrahimovic on the right wing, with the Swede ignoring the Ecuadorian’s forward run before driving a cross into the near-post. As the ball came towards Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Armenia contorted his body to deliver a brilliant, acrobatic volley with the back of his heel across keeper Jordan Pickford and into the far corner.
The only catch was that Mkhitaryan was half a yard offside when the cross was played in, and VAR would have ruled out the strike in an instant.
3. Darren Bent – Sunderland v Liverpool, 2009
We close with the Premier League’s strangest ever goal, which came during an early season game between Sunderland and the previous season’s runners-up Liverpool in October 2009.
At a packed Stadium of Light, underdogs Sunderland started well, with Republic of Ireland winger Andy Reid going close early on.
Then, Reid collected the ball on the right wing after Liverpool were disposed in midfield, before skinning Jamie Carragher and cutting the ball across the penalty area. It found its way to Darren Bent beyond the far post, with the strikers goalbound shot taking a deflection off a stray beach ball and past a bemused Pepe Reina.
The ball had been thrown on by a fan previously and not removed, but the deflection completely bamboozled Reina as the ball flew past him. Even without VAR, it’s astonishing to think that the goal was allowed to stand, but the officials at Stockley Park would have definitely chalked this off.