Ex-Prem ref leads criticism of controversial VAR decision which denied Newcastle youngster first Magpies goal

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher believes that VAR’s controversial decision to disallow Elliot Anderson’s goal in Newcastle’s Premier League clash away to Nottingham Forest on Friday night was the wrong decision.

In the 64th minute of the match at The City Ground, a brilliant piece of skill and great cross from player-of-the-match Alexander Isak found young Magpies starlet Anderson at the back post, who headed the ball into the net to make it 2-1.

The Geordie fans behind the goal went delirious as it seemed Anderson, dubbed ‘The Geordie Maradona’ by supporters, had opened his account for Newcastle, after bursting onto the scene and achieving promotion on loan at Bristol Rovers, managed by ex-Magpies midfielder Joey Barton, last season.

Unfortunately for Anderson and the travelling fans, the goal was eventually disallowed by referee Paul Tierney a couple of minutes later after a VAR review, but the video evidence ended up confusing a large majority of viewers.

VAR official Peter Bankes concluded that Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff was in an offside position before Isak played a driven cross into the box, but what made the decision confusing was that Forest defender Felipe seemed to deliberately clear the cross away in an attempt to force a corner.

Instead of going out for a corner, the clearance found fellow Forest centre-half Moussa Niakhate, who proceeded to hit the ball off Longstaff before it ended up back in Isak’s control, where he would eventually find Anderson, who came on as a surprise half-time substitute for Allan Saint-Maximin and made a significant impression.

The decision to disallow Anderson’s goal confused several pundits across the weekend. In fact, the decision was so confusing that on Monday morning on Sky Sports News, even ex-Prem ref Gallagher said that he thinks the goal should have stood, an opinion that was echoed in the studio by pundits Stephen Warnock and Sue Smith.

When asked about the decision, Gallagher said, “I look for the clues, and one of the biggest clues was Forest set up to kick off and they were waiting to kick off when the delay was going on. I don’t really see why the VAR got involved because, for me, Felipe clearly goes to kick the ball out for a corner.”

Gallagher then described how Felipe attempting to clear the ball out for a corner fell under the category of ‘deliberate play’. According to Law 11 of the IFAB Laws of the Game 2022/23, “deliberate play is when a player has control of the ball with the possibility of: passing the ball to a team-mate; or gaining possession of the ball; or clearing the ball (e.g. by kicking or heading it).”

Law 11.2 also states, “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.”

Gallagher wasn’t the only critic of the decision. Many others expressed their frustration on TV and social media over the weekend.

The disallowed goal wasn’t the only controversial call made by Tierney and Bankes during the game. Before Newcastle and Isak’s first of the game in first half stoppage time, Forest fans believed their striker Andre Ayew was fouled in the build up to the goal.

Also, in the second half, Felipe was again caught up in controversy after he seemed to pull Anderson’s shirt in the box which could have easily been given as a penalty.

Thankfully, from Newcastle’s point of view, they managed to leave with three points despite the decision thanks to a brace and another stellar performance from Isak, continuing where he left off against Wolves last Sunday.

This recent resurgence will surely give the Magpies extra confidence heading into their next game on the 2nd April against top 4 rivals and League Cup final opponents Manchester United, who will be without key man Casemiro through suspension.