Next season, La Liga will adopt VAR and while it may still divide opinion, Sunday’s Clasico was a strong argument in favor of the move.
Referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez made a string of poor decisions in the 2-2 draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid but what we can be most grateful for is that, in the grand scheme of things, it mattered little. Other than Barca’s pursuit of an undefeated league season — it’s nice but when you step away and realize they lost in other competitions, it pales a tiny bit — the only things that mattered here were pride, tradition and rivalry.
The game itself is still hugely important, of course, but it’s also the sort of thing that, when there aren’t leagues or cups at stake, you can move on from relatively quickly. Barca have a Liga title to celebrate, Real Madrid a Champions League final to prepare for. Plus neither Zinedine Zidane nor Ernesto Valverde are the types to complain and dredge up the past.
As for the officiating, it was uneven throughout. The most egregious errors? Luis Suarez clearly fouled Raphael Varane en route to setting up Lionel Messi’s goal, Real Madrid should have had a penalty when Jordi Alba upended Marcelo in the box and Gareth Bale’s assault on Samuel Umtiti merited a straight red or a yellow at the very least (he got neither). There were other incidents too, as what many had predicted would be a “decaffeinated Clasico” proved to be anything but.
It’s always special when you see “skill” players turning up the intensity in physical terms and this game certainly delivered that, which made it harder to officiate albeit more entertaining for the neutral. But it’s obvious the referee will look back on this match as a bad day at the office and it’s equally obvious that VAR would have made his job easier.
On the bright side, we saw some real moments of sublime skill as you’d expect. Messi did his thing, Cristiano Ronaldo too, until he was hit hard in scoring his goal (a nasty whack to the ankle from Gerard Pique… we’ll know more about his condition this week but knock on wood, he’ll be ready in Kiev). Both Sergi Roberto’s goal and Suarez’s goal were picture perfect, as was Bale’s finish for the equalizer.
You just wonder whether we couldn’t have the same sort of rip-roaring game — with the snarling intensity and tough tackles — albeit with fewer craven errors. Maybe next season…