Arsenal vs Bayern Munich: Did ref in Champions League quarter-final get three controversial decisions right?

Leandro Trossard’s strike gave Arsenal a 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final first leg after Harry Kane’s penalty; Bukayo Saka and Serge Gnabry also scored; Gunners had late penalty appeal denied, while Bayern also had claims for a spot-kick for handball

Image: Controversy at the Emirates – Did the referee get three huge decisions right?

Arsenal and Bayern Munich couldn’t be split after an enthralling 2-2 draw in north London, but both sides will have a feeling of ‘what if’ after key decisions went against them in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Amid the drama of an action-packed game there were three big controversial moments:

  • Harry Kane caught Gabriel in the throat with an elbow as he backed into the central defender and was only shown a yellow card.
  • Gabriel picked up the ball with his hand when David Raya had appeared to take a goal-kick to him but no penalty was given.
  • Bukayo Saka’s penalty appeals were turned down in second-half stoppage-time after contact from Manuel Neuer.

We answer the key questions surrounding some huge refereeing decisions at the Emirates Stadium…

  • Arsenal 2-2 Bayern Munich – Match report
  • Saka furious over penalty call as Tuchel rages at handball claim
  • The Verdict: Advantage Bayern? Tuchel right to fume over Gabriel ‘penalty’?
  • Your views! Three controversial moments in Arsenal-Bayern
  • Get Sky Sports on WhatsApp | Download the Sky Sports App

Are camera angles key in Saka decision?

Image: Arsenal's Bukayo Saka goes down under the challenge from Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer

The debate rages on.

Should Saka have been awarded a penalty after going to ground under a challenge from Neuer in almost the last attack of a pulsating Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Emirates Stadium?

The football world is split.

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Steve Sidwell reacts as Arsenal are denied a penalty late in their Champions League quarter-final against Bayern.

One thing we can all agree on is there was contact. That was shown by the treatment both players were still receiving after the full-time whistle.

But did Saka initiate the contact? Was the contact enough to go down? Was the momentum with Saka? Could the England international have stayed on his feet and scored the winner into an empty net? Did Neuer dangle out a leg?

Maybe there’s a bit of truth in all of the above, but the different angles are key.

On the broadcast on Tuesday evening, only one angle was shown and that came from the side the assistant referee was on.

From that angle, Saka initiating the contact was much more visible. However, the angle from the opposite side shows something different. From Arsenal’s left wing, pictures provided by Getty Images clearly show Neuer’s outstretched leg making contact with Saka, who was in full flight.

Maybe the first angle could explain the decision that was made by the on-field officials, but doesn’t the VAR have all the angles? It leaves you wondering why the VAR check took only 26 seconds.

  • WhatsApp poll: Should Arsenal have been awarded late penalty?

VAR check took 26 seconds – why so quick?

Image: Saka makes his case for a penalty to referee Glenn Nyberg

Neuer tripping Saka came so late in the game that referee Glenn Nyberg blew the final whistle just 26 seconds later.

Inevitably, he was immediately surrounded by Arsenal players demanding to know why a penalty wasn’t given. Nyberg then pointed to his ear and waved his hands several times, appearing to suggest the incident had already been cleared by VAR Pol van Boekel.

If that was the case, it was a remarkably-quick VAR check. Surely such a pivotal decision – one that could ultimately help to decide who progresses from this tie – required rigour from the VAR officials.

The referee and his assistants only had one look at Neuer’s challenge in real time – but the luxury of being a VAR official is they can assess the tackle from multiple angles.

Did the VAR officials watch the incident from multiple angles? It’s hard to imagine they could have done within 26 seconds.

It’s also worth noting that the referee was able to review the incident at the monitor and change his decision, despite already blowing for full-time – meaning VAR was not under additional time pressure.

Gabriel incident ‘dozy’ like Bairstow

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Paul Gilmour and Nick Wright reflect on Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League.

‘Dozy’ was the word Sky Sports cricket pundit Michael Atherton used to describe England’s Jonny Bairstow when he stepped out of his crease and was controversially stumped by Australia’s Alex Carey during last summer’s Ashes. A similar description could be given to Arsenal’s Gabriel after he picked the ball up in his penalty area when David Raya appeared to pass a goal-kick to him.

Bairstow’s dismissal sparked anger at Lord’s because it was felt it was against the spirit of the game for Australia to uphold their appeal for Bairstow to be given out, with the batsman not gaining any advantage from walking down the wicket at what he thought was the end of the over. Similarly there was no real advantage in Gabriel taking this goal-kick over Raya.

Image: Gabriel picked the ball up in his penalty area when David Raya appeared to pass a goal-kick to him

But there was perhaps a more sporting view taken by ref Nyberg who, according to Thomas Tuchel, told Bayern’s players he didn’t wish to punish the defender for “a kid’s mistake” in a Champions League quarter-final. Tuchel was understandably incensed given how closely the tie is balanced.

Certainly handling the ball in your own penalty area at any time is an action which comes with risk. Gabriel was relying on the referee deeming play not to be live. But interestingly, fault may have also lain with goalkeeper Raya.

Image: Bayern Munich players were quick to surround the referee after spotting Gabriel's error

Reviewing footage from the Premier League, the Spaniard routinely knocks the ball with his hand to Gabriel to take goal-kicks in the Premier League. The centre-back has taken 42 such kicks this season.

But on this occasion against Bayern, Raya gave him the ball with his foot – appearing to restart play with a goal-kick. Sloppiness all round.

Was Kane lucky to escape red card?

Harry Kane and Gabriel had a physical battle all evening, but the Bayern Munich striker was booked when he backed into the defender and caught him in the throat with his elbow.

Should the England captain have received a stronger punishment?

There is an argument Kane knew exactly what he was doing. Before the coming together, the former Tottenham striker has a quick look around to see where Gabriel is before swinging his arm back and catching the Brazilian defender in the throat.

On another day, the card shown to Kane could have been red. Former referee Keith Hacket said in The Telegraph: “Harry Kane can count himself a lucky boy. His swinging elbow to the face of Arsenal defender Gabriel in the 55th minute of Tuesday night’s thrilling Champions League quarter-final first leg was dangerous, reckless and with excessive force.

“Kane knew exactly what he was doing, as you can tell from his glance back at Gabriel to see where his opponent was positioned. I’m sorry, but as soon as you take your eyes off the ball and play the man, you are asking for trouble.”

In the end, Kane escaped with a booking and luckily for him he’s available for a huge second leg clash in Munich next week, which could prove decisive.

Was referee ready for such a big game?

Image: Referee Nyberg was taking charge of his first Champions League knockout game

An oddity of the Champions League’s final stages is that, while the clubs tend to come from Europe’s dominant footballing leagues, the opposite is often true of the officials.

That was the case at the Emirates, where Nyberg of Sweden was the referee. The 35-year-old’s highly questionable performance does beg the question of whether officiating at a level such as the Allsvenskan – Sweden’s top flight – is sufficient preparation for taking charge of a Champions League quarter-final between the likes of Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

Image: Harry Kane in discussion with Swedish referee Nyberg

Add in the fact that the Allsvenskan is one of the only remaining European leagues not to use VAR, meaning Nyberg is less familiar with the process than most of his colleagues in the Champions League.

It was also the first Champions League knockout game Nyberg has taken charge of – and just his seventh in total.

Was Nyberg ready for such a high-pressure fixture? Missing what probably should have been two penalties would suggest not.


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