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Newcastle did not deserve penalty heartbreak - they were robbed by VAR

Newcastle’s performance at the Parc des Princes deserved to be talked about for generations but it was lost in a night of more VAR controversy

Peter Hall
Wednesday 29 November 2023 12:05 GMT
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Eddie Howe stunned after controversial penalty seals late PSG point

Wolves manager Gary O’Neil insisted on Monday, after his team were again on the wrong end of a controversial VAR call, that livelihoods were at stake over this misuse of the technology so controversially gaining stranglehold over football around the world.

But there is something greater at risk – something that is irreplaceable, that untold millions cannot make up for.

That is the simple joy of the sport, and how famous nights are being ruined by VAR.

Instead of celebrating a heroic performance from Newcastle United and hitoric victory against the might of Paris Saint-Germain, we are talking about a ball brushing against an arm, and whether the interpretation of a single rule needs to be rectified. How depressing.

Lewis Miley’s performance in the Parc des Princes summed it up. It deserved to be talked about for generations of Geordies. The 17-year-old from County Durham should have been able to tell his future grandchildren about the time, on his full Champions League bow, he went toe-to-toe with one do the best players in the world in Kylian Mbappe and won.

It was a performance of honour. There were no spectacular goals or moments of jaw-dropping skill, more that a teenager and his injury-ravaged side held the Parisien millionaires at bay for the second time in three months to achieve their greatest-ever European away result.

That was taken away when, in the 98th minute in Paris, the ball bounced off Newcastle defender Tino Livramento’s ribs and brushed against his hand. It was accidental and there was nothing the 21-year-old could have done to avoid it. VAR ordered a review and the Polish referee, Szymon Marciniak, who took charge of last season’s Champions League and World Cup finals, pointed to the spot.

Newcastle legend Alan Shearer said the decision to award a penalty was “disgusting”. Ally McCoist called it a “disgrace”. Now, the VAR official responsible for the decision has been dropped by Uefa.

It is unlikely to appease Newcastle’s fury.

Teenager Lewis Miley held his own against Paris Saint-Germain and Kylian Mbappe on Tuesday (Getty Images)

“I just try to enjoy football and I’m just tired of discussing these matters,” defender Kieran Trippier said. “If you’re on the end of it, in a good way or a bad way, nothing can change it. The referee makes a decision.

“He had the chance to go to the monitor, which he did. So I don’t understand it, from my point of view you can clearly see that’s come off his chest and onto his arm. I’m standing here, discussing the decisions, why can’t officials? Why can’t the referee come out and explain why he gave that penalty?

“We didn’t make one sub, it was 11 against 16 tonight. The lads have given absolutely everything, as I’ve said over and over again. We’ve all just got to keep stepping up. Everyone can see it is just not a penalty.”

Kieran Tripper was left baffled at the referee’s decision to award the penalty (EPA)

But there was still plenty to be proud about. Trippier was well placed to be able to witness what Miley had just done to one of the world’s best players.

Between them, Miley being 16 years Trippier’s junior, they nullified Mbappe for long periods of the encounter down the Newcastle right, and when presented with the opportunity, especially in the first half, the pair countered at will.

There was no shirking responsibility or any appreciation for the magnitude of the occasion, Miley looked for the ball and carried it forward at every opportunity. In fact, no player in black and white made more entries into the final third than the talented teenager.

“He was quality, again,” Trippier added. “Seventeen-year-old. He can go all the way to the top.

“To come to a place like this, against this opposition, he wasn’t out of place. He was showing he is calm on the ball. He is an unbelievable player. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.

“The good thing about him is he it feels like he’s played 500 games already. He is going be the future for Newcastle.”

Lewis Miley has been thrust into the first team due to injuries, but he has impressed (AFP via Getty Images)

Such composure under pressure, authority on the ball, spirit to lead his team forward should not be forgotten, but it will.

In 20 years time, the next generation of Geordies should have been the ones searching out clips of Miley’s coming of age – the moment one of the greatest players in the club’s history, which many who know him now keep suggesting he can become, announced himself to the world.

Instead, such a performance will be lost in the vitriol. Something nobody asked for when technology was brought into our beautiful, storied game.

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