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Liga MX VAR proves useless once again; this time in Clásico Regio

The VAR played an important role in the outcome of the Monterrey derby, and proved again that if not manned correctly, has no use whatsoever.

Tigres UANL v Monterrey - Torneo Guard1anes 2021 Liga MX Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

With Tigres owning the 125th edition of the Clásico Regio last night by a final of 2-1 in the Estadio Universitario, they drastically improved their chances of making the playoffs, as they now sit 9th overall with 22 points - 4 points clear of 13th placed Pumas. If both Querétaro and Pachuca lose their games tonight and tomorrow night, respectively, Tigres will have officially clinched a playoff spot, although they pretty much already have. It would take something serious for Tuca’s squad not to participate in the wild-card round. Rayados, on the other hand, lost for the third consecutive time in the past seven days (Pachuca, Chivas, Tigres). They currently remain in that 4th spot thanks to León dropping their game in Mazatlán on Friday night. But it’s still up to Santos tomorrow night; if they so much as draw in Pachuca, they will take over that final important QF spot.

Now, nobody is questioning whether Tigres deserved that victory last night. They were easily the better team, vastly dominating ball possession and opportunities after that initial assault by Rayados fumed out. They were also hungrier on the pitch and did the dirty work that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, such as winning most of the lose balls and showing more intensity in every part of the pitch, as well as being more orderly. But one thing that can’t be argued either, is that VAR just simply doesn’t provide what it’s asked for in many cases in Mexico. It’s not that it isn’t a great tool and of much assistance to the refs, but it’s the way in which the league and the very refs determine how and when to use it. At times, they make a lot of sense and show logic when utilizing it, but at other times (like yesterday), prove it makes no sense to have a VAR in Liga MX.

In yesterday’s Clásico Regio, there were two clear moments where VAR did nothing and changed the outcome of the match. The first one was just a couple minutes into the second half, with the scored nodded up at 1. Luis Quiñones took a long pass on the right side, and thanks to the space afforded to him by left-back Jesús Gallardo, was able to enter the penalty box with no difficulty, and upon a quick move to his right up against the byline, Gallardo attempted to poke the ball away, but before he did, he nicked Quiñones’ left foot, which caused his ankle to bend and twist when it came down. This precise play caused the Colombian to exit the game. The ref didn’t indicate a penalty, and after reviewing it himself, still determined it wasn’t enough to justify a call. I’m all for physical play, but when a player hits another player’s foot first, causing a shot to be altered and even causing an injury, that to me sounds like a good enough definition for what a penalty call would be.

Twelve minutes later, a fresh Nico López sent a perfect lobbed ball into the penalty box for Carlos González, who made a quick move to the left on his marker Kranevitter, and then dramatically fell to the ground, in what appeared to be an attempt to stop the Tigres striker. The penalty was whistled immediately. However, the replay clearly showed Kranevitter moving backward to avoid contact, and appeared to be a sure reversed call. Wrong again. And this time, the ref didn’t even take a look at it. It was confirmed to him from upstairs that it was indeed a penalty. How could González have fallen to the ground if he was barely even touched? Why did the ref review the previous possible penalty, but not this one? Why the inconsistencies?

Apart from these two incidents that don’t make much sense at all, ref Marco Antonio Nava should’ve booked Rogelio Funes Mori in the 85th minute for trying to trick him into calling a penalty, which would’ve meant his second yellow of the game, and therefore should’ve been sent off. Five minutes later, Sebastián Vegas disagreed with Nava on what he felt was a foul on him by Nico López, but after the correct no call, Vegas got up and purposely charged the ref with his shoulder, which should’ve been an automatic red card and a few extra suspension games to say the least. The result was a simple yellow card. He should’ve been told from upstairs or at least reviewed the play with VAR and should’ve changed to a red card. And these are just a couple more examples of the faulty decision-making and overall criteria used by Liga MX refs, and how the VAR is utilized so inconsistently.

Did Tigres win fairly yesterday night? Absolutely. Did Rayados have chances to go back in front or tie the game up? Absolutely. Despite that, is it correct that refs and VAR influence a result with faulty decisions? Absolutely not. And that’s what happened last night. Despite the deserving team winning, refs influenced the game and made incorrect calls, something that happens quite frequently in Liga MX. And that’s a big difference between Premier League and the other top leagues in the world with the Mexican League. As long as officiating crews are unable to establish a consistent criteria and be logical with decisions on the pitch, as well as lean on VAR to make consistent calls, Liga MX will be unable to develop into a top-tier league.