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PSG, Newcastle VAR ref axed after controversial penalty

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A video review official has been removed from his Champions League game duties following a controversial handball decision that awarded Paris Saint-Germain a stoppage-time penalty against Newcastle United. The decision contradicted UEFA’s own guidelines to referees regarding handball offenses.

Tomasz Kwiatkowski, a VAR specialist from Poland, was initially assigned to the Real Sociedad-Salzburg match but has been replaced by a German official.

During the PSG-Newcastle clash on Tuesday, Kylian Mbappé scored a penalty in the eighth minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw. The penalty was awarded after the ball struck Newcastle defender Tino Livramento in the chest and then deflected off his arm.

Referee Szymon Marciniak, who officiated last season’s Champions League final and the 2022 World Cup final alongside Kwiatkowski, initially allowed play to continue but awarded the penalty after consulting with his video assistant.

However, UEFA’s advice to referees, issued in April by a panel of former players and coaches, clearly states that “no handball offense should be called on a player if the ball is previously deflected from his own body, and, in particular, when the ball does not go towards the goal.”

UEFA Chief of Football Zvonimir Boban emphasized the need for consistency and clarity in applying the handball rule, stating, “The handball rule, for example, will always be disputed, but we can make it more consistent and aligned with the game’s true nature.”

UEFA declined to comment on the specific incident, adhering to its policy of not discussing field-of-play decisions.

The current handball rules allow for penalties to be awarded even if the contact was not intentional and after a deflection if a defender’s arm is deemed to be in an unnatural position.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe expressed his frustration with the decision, stating, “I feel it is a poor decision and it’s hugely frustrating for us as you know how little time there is left in the game. (Livramento’s hands) are down by his side, but he is in a running motion.”

The penalty decision significantly impacted the standings in Group F, with PSG maintaining a two-point lead over Newcastle in the race for the second qualifying spot for the round of 16.

Newcastle now faces the daunting task of winning its home game against last-place AC Milan on December 13 while hoping PSG fails to win at Dortmund. The second-place team advances to the Champions League round of 16, while the third-place team enters the Europa League knockout playoffs.

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