Brighton 2 Crystal Palace 1
Brighton beat Crystal Palace last night to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup in a match that will go down in history.
Not because of the manner of the Seagulls’ 2-1 win, however, but because it was the first competitive game in England to be played with video assistant referee (VAR) technology available.
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Available it may have been, but it wasn’t used three minutes from time when Glenn Murray scored Brighton’s winner.
The Palace players claimed Murray had handled the ball in scoring - providing a perfect opportunity for referee Andre Marriner to deploy the VAR technology. But Marriner chose not to consult the pitchside monitor, instead awarding the goal after a brief exchange of views with the video official.
It was a bold call, and one that Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson didn’t criticise. “There’s still a slight thought it might just have brushed off his arm into the goal, but if it’d been my player scoring that goal, I’d have been very upset if it had been disallowed for handball,” Hodgson said.
“It was a genuine goal,” he continued. “And the referee was helped by the fact he had [Neil] Swarbrick in the VAR studio making a judgement that’d help him out. So I have no complaints.”
In time-honoured tradition, Brighton boss Chris Hughton said he hadn’t had a clear view of the controversial incident. “I couldn’t see it and had to wait until we came in - but obviously, it’s been very clear that it didn’t need VAR,” he told reporters.
According to The Times, video official Swarbrick reviewed 11 live incidents on his monitor from a studio in west London, but “none produced verdicts different to those of Marriner or at least none were deemed to show up any discrepancies worthy of official review”.
That will be a relief to the Football Association, which introduced the video technology in the face of widespread fears that it would slow down the game.
Brighton’s reward for their victory is a trip to Middlesbrough in the fourth round, while Nottingham Forest’s prize for knocking out holders Arsenal is an away tie at Hull. Also hitting the road are Tottenham, who will be hosted by League Two outfit Newport County.
Arguably the juiciest tie of the fourth round is Yeovil against Manchester United. The West Country club are the lowest-ranked side left in the FA Cup - they are currently 21st in League Two - but Huish Park will welcome the 12-time winners on the weekend of 27-29 January for a match that is sure to be a sellout at the 9,500-seater stadium.
“To see Jose Mourinho come down and, hopefully, Sir Alex [Ferguson] - because I know he follows the club - it’s a great moment for everyone involved with the club,” said Yeovil manager Darren Way.
“We sit at home and read books about Mourinho and Guardiola, but to speak to them face-to-face, there isn’t a price to put on that. To share that moment in my office, hopefully, before and after the game is what dreams are made of.”
FA Cup fourth-round draw
- Liverpool vs. West Brom
- Peterborough vs. Fleetwood/Leicester
- Huddersfield vs. Birmingham
- Notts County vs. Wolves/Swansea
- Yeovil vs. Manchester United
- Carlisle/Sheffield Wednesday vs. Stevenage/Reading
- Cardiff/Mansfield vs. Manchester City
- MK Dons vs. Coventry
- Millwall vs. Rochdale
- Southampton vs. Watford
- Middlesbrough vs. Brighton/Crystal Palace
- Bournemouth/Wigan vs. Shrewsbury/West Ham
- Hull vs. Nottingham Forest
- Newport County vs. Tottenham
- Norwich/Chelsea vs. Newcastle
- Sheffield United vs. Preston
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