Every VAR decision from Chelsea 4-4 Man City assessed

  • Chelsea and Man City duked out a breathless 4-4 draw packed with incidents on Sunday
  • Two penalties of differing controversy bookended the scoring
  • City also escaped two VAR checks for handball
There was plenty of VAR action to inspect during a wild eight-goal epic between Chelsea and Manchester City
There was plenty of VAR action to inspect during a wild eight-goal epic between Chelsea and Manchester City / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

At the end of a breathless barn-burner, Mauricio Pochettino still had enough voice left to ferociously berate a set of overworked match officials.

Chelsea's 4-4 epic with Manchester City had lasted more than 100 minutes but Pochettino wanted a bit more. Incensed that Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle just as Marc Cucurella looked set to launch one last counter attack, a sodden Pochettino stormed towards the centre circle screaming: "What the f***?"

Pochettino was quick to apologise post-match but numerous on-lookers, both partisan and neutral, were asking themselves the same question in response to rather more controversial calls by the refereeing team.

Here's a full rundown of every major decision inspected by VAR on the day.

Erling Haaland penalty - 21st minute

Aside from the officials, Erling Haaland seemed to be the only person in Stamford Bridge who knew what was going on when the ball bounced out of play midway through the first half.

Thiago Silva headed a clearance behind for what he thought was a corner but Haaland swiftly grabbed the ball and made a beeline towards the penalty spot. As everyone else would soon discover, the assistant referee had spotted Cucurella's tug which sent the towering striker to the turf.

What VAR Jarred Gillett did not seem to closely inspect was Haaland's initial jostling with the defender. City's number nine clearly grabs hold of Cucurella's sleeve to haul himself in front of the Spaniard who then compounds a forced misstep by hanging onto Haaland.

VAR seemingly came to the conclusion that no "clear and obvious error" had been committed. With a 50-50 call such as this, Gillett was right to stick to the dubious - but hardly diabolical - on-field decision.

Verdict: Correct VAR decision, incorrect on-field decision

Erling Haaland handball appeal - 47th minute

Haaland had gone more than two hours of football without a single goal against Chelsea before notching two in barely 20 minutes on Sunday.

At the sharp end of a move which he instigated by dropping ahead of Moises Caicedo, Haaland slid onto Julian Alvarez's low delivery between Axel Disasi and Reece James. The ball scruffily bobbled off Haaland's left leg and almost away from goal, spinning awkwardly behind his back. All three - Haaland, James and the ball - crossed the line but VAR had to check if the ball had brushed against any arm in the process.

As outlined in Law 12, a handball has been committed if a player scores "immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental".

The officials at Stockley Park took their time over this narrow decision - likely out of fear of the backlash any wrong call receives - but eventually came to the seemingly correct view that Haaland cleverly avoided any illegal contact.

Verdict: Correct decision

Kyle Walker handball appeal - 76th minute

Kyle Walker doesn't suffer many chastening outings but he was given the run-around by his former teammate Raheem Sterling on Sunday. Towards the end of a draining evening, Walker wasn't helped by his goalkeeper booting the ball directly into his outstretched hand.

City's skipper clearly made his body "unnaturally bigger", thereby fulfilling the criteria of a handball, but no whistle was sounded by referee Anthony Taylor.

VAR naturally had a cursory glance at the offence but quickly concluded that it had taken place outside of the penalty area and did not deny an "obvious goal-scoring opportunity". Mykhailo Mudryk was lurking behind Walker but there was no evidence that he would have gotten to the ball - which Ederson directed away from him - before City's defender or goalkeeper. As this incident didn't result in a penalty or red card, VAR could not intervene.

Verdict: Correct VAR decision, incorrect on-field decision

Armando Broja penalty - 92nd minute

Ruben Dias had never experienced chaos like this in a Manchester City shirt. The last time that City conceded an xG figure as high as the 2.9 that Chelsea posted on Sunday was in a 5-2 defeat to Leicester City in September 2020. Dias was signed three days later, not entirely coincidentally.

The frazzled Portuguese centre-back dove in wildly ahead of Chelsea's third goal, leaving him grounded while Nicolas Jackson gobbled up Ederson's parry. As stoppage time belatedly arrived, Dias again hauled his frame across the greasy surface. Armando Broja didn't even need to nudge the ball, simply standing his ground while Dias clattered into him.

Taylor pointed straight to the spot and VAR had little hesitation in backing up his decision.

Verdict: Correct decision