VAR once more made the headlines in the Champions League as Real Madrid benefited from the technology in Tuesday’s clash against Paris Saint-Germain.
Zinedine Zidane’s men had enjoyed a stellar first half at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Karim Benzema putting them 1-0 up after 17 minutes.
Despite all their dominance, however, the hosts ended the opening 45 minutes facing a potentially game-changing reversal of fortunes.
Mauro Icardi broke clear of the Madrid defence and was clumsily brought down by Thibaut Courtois, albeit with the Argentine going down rather eagerly.
Referee Artur Soares Dias’ first reaction was to show Courtois the red card, before deciding to consult with VAR over whether the foul took place inside the area – an outcome that would have seen a penalty given to PSG but the goalkeeper’s punishment reduced to a yellow under the current guidelines.
But there was a further twist: VAR footage showed that much earlier in the build-up Marcelo had been felled by an illegal push, leading Soares to bring back play to that original infringement and overlook the subsequent foul on Icardi entirely.
There was no doubt that Marcelo had been fouled, but the bewilderment of the PSG squad in seeing a golden chance slip away was only matched by a flood of (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) criticism from confused social media users.
Alphonse Areola, the substitute goalkeeper once of PSG, had to sit back down. Still trailing at the break PSG coach Thomas Tuchel took radical action removing Idrissa Gueye and bringing on Neymar.
Could PSG’s four-man attack get them back in it? They could although with no real input from Neymar.
Kroos smashed into him and came away cleanly with the ball as Madrid continued to dominate with Benzema converting Marcelo’s cross to make it 2-0.But not everyone was graduating with honours.
Courtois will have to retake the exam. He fumbled a cross from the right from Thomas Meunier allowing it squirm to Mbappe who scored what was his 70th goal for PSG in his 100th game for them.
Courtois might want to apportion some of the blame to Varane who got a touch on the cross but, added to his first half error, his was a night to forget.
He was beaten again by substitute Pablo Sarabia on 83 minutes to give PSG a draw they never looked anywhere near in the first half. The result didn’t really matter. These two were always going through first and second.
Finishing top of your Champions League group never completely guarantees a clear path to the quarter-finals – there is always one rogue rival no one wants to have to face in the last-16.
This season, on this showing, that gremlin in the draw is likely to be Madrid.
Real Madrid: Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Valverde (Modric 76), Casemiro, Kroos, Isco (Rodrygo 82), Benzema, Hazard (Bale 69).
Subs Not Used: Areola, Eder Militao, Jovic, Mendy.
Goals: Benzema 17, 79.
PSG: Navas, Meunier, Thiago Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat, Gueye (Neymar 46), Marquinhos,Verratti, Mbappe-Lottin, Icardi (Sarabia 75), Di Maria (Draxler 75).
Subs Not Used: Cavani, Sergio Rico, Diallo, Dagba.
Goals: Mbappe-Lottin 81, Sarabia 83.
Ref: Artur Soraes Dias (Portugal).