The VAR Review: Dias on Vicario; Newcastle's 'handball' goal

Gab & Juls disagree on Man City's winner vs. Spurs (0:43)

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens debate whether or not Ruben Dias fouled Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario for Man City's winning goal. (0:43)

Video Assistant Referee causes controversy every week, but how are decisions made, and are they correct?

After each weekend we take a look at the major incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game. This week, it's an FA Cup fourth-round special.

- How VAR decisions have affected every Prem club in 2023-24
- VAR in the Premier League: Ultimate guide

In this week's VAR Review: Manchester City's winning goal against Tottenham Hotspur was hotly debated for a possible foul on goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, and should Luton Town's opener have counted against Everton? Plus, a possible handball in the buildup to Newcastle United's first goal at Fulham.

Tottenham 0-1 Manchester City

Possible disallowed goal: Dias challenge on Vicario

What happened: Manchester City won the game in the 88th minute when Nathan Aké forced the ball home from close range following a corner routine, but there was a VAR check for a possible foul on goalkeeper Vicario by Rúben Dias (watch here.)

VAR decision: Goal stands.

VAR review: We've seen a handful of situations recently where there has been contact between an attacking player and a goalkeeper before a goal.

On each occasion the VAR has chosen not to overrule the decision of the referee, an outcome backed up by the Premier League's Independent Key Match Incidents Panel.

Consistency is about the point of the VAR intervention, rather than the final decision.

Earlier this month, Luton Town scored a controversial injury-time equaliser at Burnley, with the home side adamant that goalkeeper James Trafford had been fouled by Elijah Adebayo. There was movement into the goalkeeper by the striker, with the Independent Panel feeling a foul was the better decision on-field -- but it didn't reach the threshold for a clear and obvious error for VAR.

More applicable to the Vicario situation was Arsenal's second goal against Crystal Palace last weekend, when Ben White appeared to be in the way of goalkeeper Dean Henderson as he attempted to punch a corner clear. The panel unanimously backed the referee's decision, saying that "any contact is initiated by Henderson."

Likewise on Friday, both Vicario and Dias were pushing each other before Kevin De Bruyne's corner was delivered. When the cross did come in, Dias was in front of the goalkeeper and held his ground. If the City player had made an obvious block, changing his position to prevent the goalkeeper from challenging, that would have been clearer grounds for the VAR to get involved.

Man City experienced a similar situation earlier this season against Liverpool, when Manuel Akanji was penalised for having an arm on Alisson before Dias scored. That goal was ruled out on the field; again the VAR had upheld the decision of the referee rather than get involved.

Only one goal has been disallowed through VAR for a foul on the goalkeeper this season, when Aston Villa's Jacob Ramsey was holding onto the arm of Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham as he attempted to punch clear.

Everton 1-2 Luton

Possible disallowed goal: Foul by Barkley on Calvert-Lewin

What happened: Luton took the lead in the 39th minute when Vitalii Mykolenko deflected the ball into his own net following a corner routine. However, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was adamant he was pushed in the back by Ross Barkley at the near post. Was there a case for the goal to be disallowed?

VAR decision: Goal stands.

VAR review: This will split opinion, but you can understand the frustration of Everton boss Sean Dyche. A lot of refereeing incidents have gone against his team -- none more so than the VAR red card shown to Calvert-Lewin in the last round of the FA Cup, which was overturned by the Football Association on appeal.

Barkley has both hands on the back of Calvert-Lewin, though the replays suggest any push was negligible. If you're Dyche and you see two hands on your player's back, which affects his ability to prevent the corner delivery getting past the near post, you're going to be aggrieved. But was there really enough for the VAR to get involved?

The best comparison comes with Newcastle's winning goal against Arsenal in November, when Joelinton had both arms on the back of defender Gabriel before Anthony Gordon scored. The Independent Panel ruled that the VAR was right not to get involved at St James' Park, and while it doesn't sit to assess the FA Cup ties it would likely reach the same conclusion.

That won't be of any consolation for Dyche, who accused the VAR of re-refereeing after Calvert-Lewin had a goal ruled out at Tottenham for a foul in the buildup by André Gomes on Emerson Royal (the Independent Panel backed this intervention, too.) It's hard to argue there's a huge amount difference in that kind of foul, and the one which wasn't penalized for Luton's opener on Saturday. Is a push really that much different from a barge when assessing a foul and a VAR intervention?

For all of Dyche's complaints, Everton don't have a VAR error logged against them this season.

Fulham 0-2 Newcastle

Possible disallowed goal: Handball before scoring

What happened: Newcastle took the lead in the 39th minute through Sean Longstaff, but was there a case for the goal to be disallowed for a handball in the buildup?

VAR decision: Goal stands.

VAR review: The handball law was amended in the summer of 2021 to say that accidental attacking handball can only be penalised if it's by the goal scorer, to reduce the number of goals that were being ruled out by the VAR for seemingly inconsequential touches of the arm.

The ball was kicked against the arm of Bruno Guimarães, but it was tucked into his body; to be penalised, the Brazil international would need his arm extended from his body, or have made a deliberate movement to the ball. Neither were present so the VAR, Tony Harrington, was right not to intervene.

In September, the ball accidentally touched the hand of Newcastle's Gordon before he created a goal against Sheffield United for Longstaff -- so the midfielder has twice benefitted from a "handball assist" this season.

Coincidentally, there was a high-profile handball incident which went against Fulham and caused huge controversy in March 2021 -- the day before it was announced the handball law would be changed. The ball was kicked against the arm of Mario Lemina, and it dropped for Josh Maja to score -- but the VAR had to disallow what was an equalising goal against Tottenham for accidental attacking handball by the player who assisted the goal. Lemina had his arm by his side and could do nothing about the ball hitting it.

Fulham in fact benefitted from the law change last season against Crystal Palace. The ball hit the arm of Aleksandar Mitrovic before Tim Ream scored, and the goal was allowed.

Aston Villa, though, were on the wrong end of the accidental attacking handball law in their 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Friday. Moussa Diaby saw his 12th-minute shot blocked, the ball then came off the arm of Douglas Luiz before it went into the net at Stamford Bridge; as he was the goal scorer it had to be ruled out by the VAR.

Possible penalty: Handball by Burn

What happened: In the 56th minute, Kenny Tete collected the ball inside the area and attempted to cross it, but the ball flicked off Dan Burn. Was there a case for a penalty for handball?

VAR decision: No penalty.

VAR review: It's not clear if the ball did hit the arm of Burn, or it was his chest.

But the defender has his arm tucked into his body, so there were no grounds for a VAR penalty.

Sheffield United 2-5 Brighton

Possible penalty overturn: Bogle foul on Pedro

What happened: Brighton & Hove Albion were awarded a penalty in the 27th minute when João Pedro was brought down by Jayden Bogle. Referee Sunny Sukhvir Gill pointed to the penalty spot with the decision checked by the VAR, Darren Bond.

VAR decision: Penalty stands, scored by Pedro.

VAR review: On first view it seemed like Pedro had gone down very easily following the challenge from Bogle.

Yet the reverse angle clearly showed that the attacker had been kicked on the calf by the Sheffield United player. This decision was never going to be changed on VAR review.

Possible penalty overturn: Handball by Bogle

What happened: Brighton were given a second spot kick in the 50th minute when Bogle challenged Evan Ferguson, with the referee ruling that the ball had hit the raised hand of the Sheffield United player.

VAR decision: Penalty stands, scored by Pedro.

VAR review: You don't get a much better example of a defender having their arm in an unnatural position outstretched from their body. Why Bogle chose to attempt to challenge for a high ball with both arms in the air is anyone's guess, but any touch in this situation was going to result in a penalty.

Bogle protested his innocence, and the VAR did check to make sure the ball did touch the arm, but there was no evidence to suggest that the on-field call of a spot kick was incorrect.