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VAR-cical: An Interista view of the referee’s performance in Inter-Fiorentina

How the referee robbed Inter of three crucial points

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A
Rosario Abisso referee consults the VAR during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and FC Internazionale at Stadio Artemio Franchi on February 24, 2019 in Florence, Italy.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Note from the writer: If you’re looking for an well thought out article which explains the finer points of refereeing and considers both sides of the argument, then this piece isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a rant from a pissed off Interista, however, read on.

“You spent 95 minutes painting a Van Gogh, then you signed it with shit”

These are the words of former Italian referee Claudio Pieri after last nights Fiorentina-Inter clash. He was referring to the performance of referee Rosario Abisso — and he was not impressed.

From the very first minute, Abisso had tough decisions to make. As a Serie A referee, that is his job. To make that job easier, he has the help of a video system which will allow him to take a second (or third, or hundredth) look at an incident in super slow motion so his pea-sized brain can process the images in front of him. Let’s see how he did:

Fiorentina 1 - Inter 0

I admit, I was one minute late switching the game on and missed this. It seemed fine on replay, however, there is an image floating around which suggests Federico Chiesa’s big toe may have been over the line. Personally, I think that degree of scrutiny is unnecessary and am happy to see the goal given. I was much less happy when Mauro Icardi had a goal in last years Milan derby ruled out for the same offence, however.

Fiorentina 1 - Inter 1

At first glance, I thought this was offside. I didn’t even celebrate because I was certain that Matias Vecino was too far forward. Abisso waited, but then call to review never came and the game continued. Can’t blame him here. I don’t follow many Fiorentina accounts so I haven’t seen a frame which confirms/denies an offside.

FC Internazionale v SK Rapid Wien - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Fiorentina 1 - Inter 3

Everything seemed fine at full speed but the referee calls it back for what, in the end, looked a clear handball. I can see why that would have frustrated absolutely everyone at the stadium because not even the Inter players strongly appealed the decision.

This took the referee way too long to decide, potentially because he was looking into whether or not the Fiorentina player was pushed before the handball. I believe that there is pushing and shoving at every corner/free kick in the modern game, and if we called everyone there would be five penalties every 90 minutes. Let’s say it was 50-50 and he went in favour of the attacking team.

Fiorentina 1 - Inter 3

Cristian Biraghi has a goal disallowed. Why? Because Luis Muriel drove his studs into Danilo D’Ambrosio’s shin. I don’t understand why people were upset at this. That’s a foul 10 times out of 10, and the correct decision by the referee. Kudos to him.

Fiorentina 2 - Inter 3

Nothing about the referee here, I just wanted to praise what was an absolutely perfect free kick. If Ronaldo or Messi had pulled it off, it would’ve broken the internet. Fair play to Muriel. Just make sure you do that same against the other big sides too. Please and thank you.

Fiorentina 3 - Inter 3

It’s decisions like this that make people lose their mind about VAR.

I like VAR. I think it’s good for the game. I don’t mind having to wait a minute extra for a goal to be reviewed because that’s worth the idea that our beautiful sport will no longer be plagued by incompetence.

Titles will no longer hinge on the line of sight of a single individual, results will be just and effort/talent will be rewarded. I also don’t understand why people blame VAR when things go wrong. It’s not a robot that sends a decision to the referee that he must accept. If the VAR doesn’t work, its because the people running the system are hopeless at their jobs. No, VAR isn’t the problem. This guy is.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

(I was tempted to insert an image of Mauro Icardi there for laughs, but that’s another article.)

The sequence begins with a long, cross field ball which D’Ambrosio and Chiesa contest. The Inter man gets to the ball first and then get clattered into by his opponent. There even looked to be a sneaky elbow in there, although

I don’t think Chiesa is the type to do that.

Either way, if that same collision happens ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE FIELD, it’s a free kick to Inter. Ball was no longer there to be won, offending player was in mid air and knocked over the guy who got the ball. Free kick and, likely, game over.

But no, Chiesa picks up the ball and turns to face D’Ambrosio who had quickly returned to his feet to defend. He probably did himself a disservice there because, if he had stayed down longer the referee probably would’ve looked at it longer. Anyway, D’Ambrosio and Vecino hold up the young Italian who proceeds to try and lift the ball towards the box, but hits D’Ambrosio’s chest. CHEST. The referee whistles for a penalty due to handball.

Now, as a general rule, I like to look at a players reaction to sense their guilt/desperation. A desperate player who knows they’re in trouble will beg, plead and make a general fuss to try to change the refs mind. D’Ambrosio, after his initial shock, appears to calmly ask the referee to go and check the video because the ball struck his chest.

He doesn’t look worried, he doesn’t hound the referee, he just says “look at the tape.” The referee does so. He spends four minutes doing so. He can see the ball strike the player in the chest.

He can see the ‘elli’ on the players shirt move in response to the impact of the ball. He can see the trajectory change due to that impact and he (as a professional) knows that a deflection onto the arm is not a penalty.

He sees all this and still, he awards a penalty which costs Inter a win. Go back to D’Ambrosio, he doesn’t look angry. He looks absolutely bewildered.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

To put it gently, it’s a disgrace. The sheer incompetence shown by this individual is off the charts. I don’t know why he made his decision - God forbid a referee ever has to explain themselves to the audience - but it is a huge error. What’s worse is that it came at a time when Inter were unable to respond.

The penalty was taken at 101’ and there was only due to be seven minutes of extra time (which I think was correct), so the players were lucky to get one attack. It was a terrible decision at the worst possible moment in the match, potentially even the season for Inter. The side is doing a good enough job of throwing away their Champions League spot, they don’t need this sort of tomfoolery as well.

It’s been a long time since the club made a formal complaint to the Serie A. I thought one was due after a clear handball on the goal line was ignored vs Parma this season, but they stayed silent. I don’t think it’s the way Zhang wants to operate, so I expect the same again. However, the referees association should be demoting Abisso to Serie B for the foreseeable future.

So there you have it, my take on the referees performance through my black and blue glasses. If someone had offered me a draw in Florence at the start of the season, I’d have accepted it so it’s not then end of the world. Besides, there’s nothing that rallies a playing group more so than that sort of gross injustice. Let’s see how the players respond against Cagliari.

What do you think? Post your comments below!