The VAR Review: Why Kevin de Bruyne’s goal for Man City vs. Real Madrid wasn’t disallowed

Because of the controversies surrounding Kevin De Bruyne's equalizer at the Santiago Bernabeu, we have provided an explanation on why the goal stood despite the VAR review.

Manchester City secured a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday, thanks to a Kevin De Bruyne’s second-half equalizer, keeping things level, heading into the Champions League semi-final second leg next Wednesday.

After the game ended, there were rumblings that the Manchester City goal should have been disallowed because the ball seemed to have gone out-of-play in the build up. However, the subsequent VAR review, which deemed the goal to be legal, has been a source of debate and arguments.

Vinicus Jr. had opened the scoring for the defending champions in the 36th minute with a thunderous strike from a distance, giving fellow countryman Ederson, no chance.

Belgian playmaker Kevin de Bruyne equalized in the 67th minute, with a shot from outside-the-box to bring City on level terms.

What led to the controversy?

In the 66th minute, Bernardo Silva managed to save the ball from being out of play shortly before De Bruyne lost the ball to Camavinga.

Why Kevin De Bruyne's goal vs Real Madrid was not disallowed despite ball appearing to be out of play
Fig. 1, The ball saved from being out-of-play by Bernardo Silva

The France international played a poor pass into a central area that failed to reach his teammate, which Rodri intercepted and this eventually led to De Bruyne scoring the goal.

It was a goal which infuriated Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti as he believed Bernardo Silva was out of play with the ball during the build-up to the equalizer.

Speaking on beIN Sports during the game, former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger highlighted how the City goal should have been reviewed by VAR, before the broadcaster confirmed using 3D technology that the ball had gone out of play.

“The VAR normally should check if the goal is regular or not. In a situation like that they have to intervene,” Wenger said on beINSPORTS. “They did not go far enough back to check if the ball was out or not”, Arsene Wenger said.

Did not go far enough back, or shouldn’t go further back? There are key parts to the VAR protocol.

But what of the image that was shared to prove the ball was out?

“It was out. It’s not me saying it; the technology does,” Ancelotti said in his postmatch news conference. “It surprises me. They’re small details, but the referee wasn’t attentive.”

Fig. 2, A 3D graphical model created by broadcasting television beINSPORT

The image was from a graphical model created by television broadcaster beINSPORTS, shown on its Champions League coverage. It isn’t approved for use or available to the VAR, and there is no specific technology to check the ball going out of play on the sideline. No one can be truly certain the ball went out of play, yet the TV graphic was presented as fact while the assistant was very close with a clear view.

VAR decision on the goal and build-up

Firstly, you need to understand the VAR had a look for a little moment into the build-up to this goal but members of the team and the onfield referee chose to stay with the initial decision.

VAR decision states: Goal stands.

The graphic shared widely on social media, and referenced by Ancelotti, has taken much of the attention — but all is not what it seems.

ESPN sources have confirmed that goal was allowed to stand because the attacking phase of play (APP) was reset when Eduardo Camavinga gave the ball away with a poor pass under no pressure after the ball may have gone out of play.

Note: According to the rule, anything before that pass isn’t valid for a review.

It was very clear evidence the Attacking-phase-of-play (APP) has been reset and the VAR could not review prior to Camavinga needlessly giving the ball away.

Needless to say, the official language in the Laws of the Game (page 141) says “it may be necessary to review the attacking phase of play which led directly to the decision/incident.”

Since VAR was not able to intervene, the goal stood.

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