On Monday night, the relegation battle in the Bundesliga heated up once again, after Mainz and Freiburg played out a highly controversial match, courtesy of dubious VAR refereeing.
After a somewhat dull, goalless affair in the beginning, the first half ended with the referee Guido Winkmann turning down appeals for a Mainz penalty for handball. The players calmly left the pitch for the break, only to be called back in minutes later, as the VAR official had apparently reviewed the handball situation and awarded a penalty to the home side.
Winkmann then had to call the players from the dressing rooms and get them back on the field for the penalty to be taken, as the decision to end the half was now practically void. Confused by this absurd situation, Freiburg’s players reluctantly returned to the pitch only to see the penalty expertly converted by Pablo de Blasis.
Then, as soon as the penalty was taken, the referee blew to signal the end of the first half… again.
Mainz carefully protected their lead in the second half and actually managed to score again from a fine piece of action 11 minutes before the end of the match, but in the end, the controversial penalty proved to be pivotal, as it allowed Mainz to sit back and wait for their opportunity to strike back.
The contentious Mainz win could be crucial in the Bundesliga relegation battle – the three points allowed them to leapfrog Freiburg and escape from the relegation play-off position.
This latest VAR controversy has once again brought into question the decision to use VAR at the World Cup in the summer, with players, managers and reporters offering contrasting views on the new refereeing system.