On the whole, Mark Geiger had a good match in very trying circumstances on Tuesday night in Moscow, where Colombia played a brand of "anti-football" that's not seen that often these days. Colombia, with several stars of international calibre in their side, resorted throughout the match to intimidation of the opposing English players and match officials alike.
So be it. That's no rare occurrence and Geiger, who must be ranked as a contender for a semi-final appointment if not the final (which I'm pretty sure will go to a certain German ref called Felix now that the champions are back home nursing their wounds), was handling the game well, clamping down on Colombian hystrionics with 4 yellows in a 12-minute period to try to bring the game back under control with a burst of severity.
The incident I want to discuss shows the structural weakness of the VARS and portrays just how, between two top referees, they can still manage to get the decision wrong.
The game was still goal-less towards the end of the first half when an England free kick near the edge of the Colombia penalty area erupted into chaos. With pushing and shoving going on everywhere, Geiger cannot be blamed for not seeing a specific incident involving Jordan Henderson and Colombia's Wilmar Barrios. Barrios, amidst the shoving, aimed the back of his head at Henderson's chest and then jerked his hear up towards Henderson's face, catching it a not very damaging glancing blow. Henderson, probably unnecessarily, hit the ground. Geiger hadn't seen the incident but the VARS decided to investigate.
This was a clear case of Violent Conduct and should have resulted in a red card.
And most people thought that, having spotted the incident, the VARS, a seasoned referee, would agree and let Geiger know what he needed to do. Or, he should at least have said something like this...
"Mark, there was violent activity in the wall there. You need to go and have a look at the pitchside monitor because you may need to give a red card." Geiger, who was in tune with the tempo and heat of the game, would most probably have seen it was a red, but between them, they didn't even bother taking another look.
So, yet another issue that joins the growing list of issues that need to be resolved when it comes to using VARS. And it again raises the question of whether it was wise to jump in to using VARS so quickly, when it's hardly been tried and tested.