How VAR fared in the Third Round of the FA Cup

Premier League sides finally agreed in principle to introduce Video Assistant Referees from next season in November, but the use of the game-changing technology continues to be limited in the English leagues following its success at last summer’s World Cup.

The decision to give VAR the green light came after numerous incidents hit the English top flight with referring seemingly as much pot luck as, leading to Charlie Austin’s famous rant where he lambasted the controversial decision to rule out his game-winning strike in a match that could also have seen Watford awarded a penalty.

As part of the technology’s continual development before a full roll-out next season, the FA decided to implement video referees at nine FA Cup games during the third round – the high cost of the equipment meaning only Premier League stadiums would be equipped with the VAR setup.

So how did VAR fare during the FA Cup’s Third Round, and which games would have benefited most from its presence? Football FanCast take a look…

Lucky escape for Arsenal

When Arsenal travelled to Blackpool, Unai Emery made a hoard of changes to his side, as the Spaniard introduced youth and experience to face his League One opposition.

Given Bloomfield Road is not a Premier League stadium, the tie was one of many not to use VAR but had it been implemented, Arsenal would not have walked away with a comfortable 3-0 win in an otherwise underwhelming performance.

Key incidents that fell in the Gunners’ favour, like Alex Iwobi’s potential handball in the lead up to Joe Willock’s second goal and the Nigerian international subsequently coming from an offside position to fire home the settler in the 82nd minute, would have created the potential for Blackpool to punish the multiple chances missed by Eddie Nketiah.

Emery was fortunate the technology was not in use here: take those two goals off the scoreboard and a one-nil lead would not have been comfortable viewing, as the hosts continually popped into the Reds’ defensive third and caused problems. It’s the sort of luck you’re after when you take a visit to

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Crystal Palace spared blushes

Although only Premier League clubs were able to host the VAR technology, not every side had the cameras in operation during the FA Cup’s Third Round. One of those was Chelsea.

Luckily for the Blues, a late clip by Claudio Yacob that the referee failed to note didn’t derail the eventual victory. But had the Video Assistant Referee been on hand, Morata’s plea would not have fallen on deaf ears and the Baggies would likely have been reduced to ten men.

On the other hand, Crystal Palace had VAR in use as they hosted Grimsby, with the camera official rightfully deeming Andrew Fox’s challenge worthy of a straight red card on the third minute, after referee Martin Atkinson initially waved play to go on before brandishing a yellow card.

If, like at Stamford Bridge, Selhurst Park did not have the cameras in operation, Roy Hodgson’s side could have been shocked by their League Two opponents who fought valiantly until the 86th minute when Jordan Ayew found the back of the net.

Teething issues unfortunately continue

Unfortunately, while the benefits of VAR were clear as day elsewhere in England, incidents at Old Trafford and Turf Moor once again showed the technology is only as good as it is implemented.

In Manchester, as United hosted Championship opponents Reading, Brazilian midfielder Fred believed he had scored just his second goal for the Red Devils since his summer move, only for it to be rightly called offside. If it had of been allowed it would have seen as a bonus for United, usually only found at

As the Video Assistant Referee confirmed the decision, a two minute wait kept fans and players alike in angst, before Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot noting a clip on Juan Mata as the pass was played.

Still, debate rose, as arguments could be formed for whether the contact was made after the pass, or if the foul had been the key factor as Mata could have latched onto his own ball.

Burnley's Matej Vydra waits to take a penalty which is later overturned by VAR

Meanwhile at Turf Moor, Burnley believed they had correctly been awarded a penalty when Barnsley’s Dimitri Cavare hauled Matej Vydra to the ground, but as the Czech international began his run-up to strike the penalty, Simon Hooper whistled to award the Tykes a free-kick for offside.

As Vydra set himself to take the spot kick, the video referee was silently reviewing the incident and noted the 26-year-old had actually been offside when the initial pass was played to him.

The wait for a decision riled Burnley manager Sean Dyche, who later noted that he is a ‘big fan’ of the concept of VAR but could not rest easy in the lengthy delay while a ruling was made, when he and his staff could see the offside after just a few seconds.