England 1 Italy 1: VAR debate continues after late penalty decision
Italy earn draw after being awarded a spot-kick via the video assistant referee
England 1 Italy 1
England conceded their first goal in six matches as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy at Wembley Stadium last night.
Jamie Vardy’s goal had given the Three Lions the lead on 26 minutes, the Leicester striker thumping the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma after Jesse Lingard’s quickly taken free-kick had left the visitors’ defence flat-footed.
England were good value for their lead on a night when Raheem Sterling shone and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lingard caused concern in the Italian defence with their pace.
But all the good work was undone on 87 minutes when James Tarkowski challenged Federico Chiesa on one of the Italians’ rare forays into the England penalty area.
The Burnley defender stood on Chiesa’s foot as they went for the ball and referee Deniz Aytekin turned to the video assistant referee (VAR) to see if a foul had been committed.
Yes, was the response, and from the ensuing penalty Lorenzo Insigne put the ball past Jack Butland.
If it was the first goal that England have shipped in 10 hours and 24 minutes of football (since Slovakia scored in September last year), then it was also the first time the Italians had found the net in four games, a relief for a country whose confidence is at rock bottom following their failure to qualify for the World Cup.
The visitors actually enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and Ciro Immobile should have put them ahead with one of the three chances he had in the first 15 minutes. Thereafter the experimental England team got into its stride and only the hesitant performance of John Stones in defence will have disappointed Gareth Southgate - along with the penalty decision.
“It looks like James Tarkowski stands on him but it’s during the running process and he’s going down anyway,” said the England manager. “I think the referee had a good view already. I don’t think with incidents like that VAR will clear things up. An obvious handball and stuff like that then maybe - but we have to get on with it.”
Pointing out that referees have been directed to turn to VAR only if an incident is “clear and obvious”, Southgate said: “I’m glad it’s not the World Cup just yet. I think the ruling is ‘clear and obvious’ and it’s not. It’s one you can debate all day.”
Others were more forthright in their criticism of the penalty decision with former England striker Alan Shearer tweeting: “If you choose to ignore the ‘clear and obvious’ guidance, then you potentially have to review every decision and the game will descend into chaos.”
His comments were echoed by Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who fumed on social media: “A clear and obviously deserved victory taken away. It’s irrelevant whether they think it was a penalty or not. VAR is there for the obvious howlers. This was far from that.”