In the Copa Libertadores Semifinal second leg Palmeiras tonight faced River Plate in Sao Paulo. After River Plate had lost 0-3 at home in the first left, I did not have not big expectations to the match as I sat down and watched after a long day. But I was wrong as Marcelo Gallardo's side played a magnificent match and were ahead 0-2 at half-time, and continued attacking mercilessly against a Palmeiras side that at times seemed to be praying.
Palmeiras held, and made it to the final, after 10 minutes of added time and huge chances for River Plate. Despite of it being such an intense match, one left with the feeling that VAR had contributed negatively to its intensity as much of the added time was due to this.
Gonzalo Montiel scored an excellent goal for River Plate to go ahead 0-3, but after a long time the referee cancelled the goal. For a long time it was impossible to see what happened (the commentators kept saying they could not see anything), but it appeared to be a very tight offside, two plays before the goal, where the ball appeared to be tackled into a player that was coming from an off-side position. Even after watching it five times, I had a hard time seeing the foul, and in the end VAR has helped nothing but Palmeiras and time-wasting.
A second situation was a penalty call for River Plate. For a long time they were ready to kick, until the referee decided to consult VAR, and then cancelled the penalty. This decision appeared less controversial, as the River player does appear to dive, but it is not definite, as there is a challenge. But the referee decision did not stand. In the last minute, another penalty situation (this time it was not given by the referee) could have gone River's way. Add to all this an extremely harsh red card for Robert Rojas, and one has the feeling that River Plate did not have bad luck, but rather VAR luck.
It is a pity, but I do not think that the leaders of football are using VAR the right way; in the end it just becomes another layer to controversy...
Palmeiras will face either Santos or Boca Juniors, who will face one another tomorrow in Sao Paulo, after 0-0 in the first leg.