With the score knotted up at 1 in La Corregidora last night, Puebla found themsleves with a dangerous free kick in the 88th minute which could give them a go-ahead goal and lead them to a win they so desperately needed to get their season going again. MF Federico Mancuello fired off a difficult left-footed shot for keeper Aguerre, as it bounced right in front of him before he made a good diving save, deflecting the ball to his right side. Unfortunately for Aguerre, however, Maximiliano Araujo was waiting for the ball, and upon controlling it, fired off a left-footed shot himself which crept between the keeper’s right foot and the bar, finding its way to the back of the net. Reasonably so, all of Puebla’s bench burst into joy and celebration as they had come from behind to take a 2-1 lead on the road.
Once the ball was placed in midfield to resume action, ref Ismael López was being spoken to through his earpiece, and upon a few seconds of paused action, he ran across the field to take a look at the replay on the basis of the goal potentially being called back. Upon looking at the play multiple times, the ball breezes by Jozy Altidore, who even gets out of the way in order for it to make its way to goal. It appeared as if he could’ve stuck his arm in there and affected ball movement, but when viewing it in slow motion, there’s no conclusive evidence that he did, and there’s even a shot from beside the goal post where you can see he never actually does touch the ball or affect direction. He was in fact, just getting out of the way.
The other possibility, which appears to be the one the ref applied (still unjustified) is an offside on striker Martín Barragán, who from the sideline take is clearly a step ahead of the last defender, but has no involvement in the goal whatsoever, except attempting to chase the ball. But never does he get in the way to impede Aguerre’s view or affect the outcome of the ball or play in any way.
One thing I will give Liga MX is the fact they’ve been consistent with this type of ruling throughout the season. They’ve affected other clubs as well with similar rulings when players weren’t involved in a goal. But that’s not the point. The point here is refs must use their judgment for each specific play and not be so closed-minded as to repeat the same call over and over just because it’s happening. Each play develops differently and has specific situations like yesterday’s where in no way did either Altidore or Barragán influence the play, and even with VAR, they found a way to call off a totally legitimate goal.
It’s worth noting I’m someone who likes rules being enforced and who’s all for fair play and the fairest outcomes occurring. But I’m also for the spectacle of sports. Fans are there to see goals. If a player is clearly doing something he shouldn’t to affect the outcome of the game, it must be enforced. But plays like yesterday’s where an offisde is being called just because he’s in that position without interfering at all in the outcome, you’ve gotta let ‘em play. The more continuity you give a sport like soccer (especially), the better. The Premier League handle these issues magnificently and mostly take just seconds to reverse or confirm decisions; how do they do it? This good VAR use can be achieved, it’s just a matter of the league wanting it. And that’s something Liga MX clearly don’t want at the moment.