Skip to main content

AC Milan 1, Real Betis 2: Welcome to VAR


For years, people have begged for video replay in football. Get those calls right, they said. The use of video technology will finally put those questionable ref calls to rest, they said. Especially after the “gol di Muntari” incident a few years back, Milan in particular lobbied for video technology. So FIFA researched it and tested it, and even Serie A tested it last season. How ironic, then, that VAR would be the star of our friendly, literally turning the result upside down and visibly upsetting our players. Welcome to VAR.

VAR: making all of this guy's other calls look horrible since 2017

Let’s be fair, Doveri needed a lot of help. When there are nine yellow cards handed out in a friendly, even the decision to go to VAR should be questioned. Real Betis were very physical, but Milan didn’t have a problem answering back, either. And Doveri’s early and random use of yellow cards did not help the match at all. Also a consideration would be the weather, as it was 84°F/29°C and 74% humidity at 9:30pm in Catania. I can certainly understand why the players were less than friendly.

Milan started in attack, with an Andre Silva miss in the third minute, then a goal from a free kick in the 12th. But that goal was called off for offside, using VAR. That alone seemed to shake up the players, and then it was just a series of yellow cards, including one in the 23rd handed to Bonucci for no apparent reason, and one that Antonelli was probably more deserving of in the 30th. But even with a cooling break, there were four yellows in the first half, and many more fouls not called.

To the naked eye, it was a goal But with VAR, we can see so much more now

The second half we met Gigio’s older brother, Antonio, and he gave us some indication as to why he had been playing in Greece. There were more fouls, more yellows, and a parade of substitutions. But in the 67th, Fabian Ruiz scored a beautiful goal to give Betis the lead. 1-0 Betis. Not even the cooling break could stop Betis from taking out not just one, but two Milan players in the box on a corner, and Doveri didn’t even need VAR to call that penalty. So Silva stepped up and took a great penalty to level the score. 1-1 all.

But from there, Milan would receive three yellow cards in 17 minutes. One for Kessie, then Abate, and finally Calhanoglu. But Calhanoglu’s card was given two minutes after the play, because he received it for a handball, but only one that was called after using VAR. You see on a Betis free kick, he was in the wall and moved his elbow while jumping, and the ball hit that elbow, even if it only deflected it slightly. But that qualifies as intent, and the card and penalty were given. It’s one of those calls most refs would have missed with the naked eye, but fortunately now we have VAR. And thus, Sanabria converted the penalty to win the match, 2-1 Real Betis.

That's right, Montolivo, there's a new sheriff in town

However Milan won something more important than the game today: the captain’s armband. After Abbiati endorsed Bonucci prematch as having the right characteristics to be Milan’s captain, Montella not only gave him the armband, but started Montolivo, too, just to be sure the message was clear. And as if there was any doubt, he also played him on the right, which was Montolivo’s least favorite position in the past. And as if that was not enough salt in the wound, a child named Locatelli was given his traditional spot. This was a massive victory for Milan, and especially all of the fans who have suffered through the Montolivo farce captaincy. Finally, justice has prevailed and we can all sleep at night again.

VAR's other victim on the night: he'll think twice before moving anything from now on

But even if Real Betis finished 15th in La Liga last year, thus beating a team like Milan is very impressive and they deserve accolades for it, there was a bigger winner today: VAR. VAR literally changed the result right before our eyes. Even Montella said we would have to “get used to” VAR postmatch. And the irony of Milan getting robbed of the Muntari goal before VAR, and now losing a game because of VAR was not lost on me. Doveri’s calls using VAR were correct, don’t get me wrong. Pretty sure he could have used VAR on like every call and non-call in this match, and he still might have been inconsistent. But ironically, both calls made using VAR were calls that would have ended in our favor most every time. However, with VAR, we got the exactness we’ve been begging for, only it felt like a punch to the stomach. Welcome, VAR.


This post inspired by the music of She Wants Revenge’s “These Things”


Our next match is
Europa League Playoff Round
AC Milan vs. KF Shkëndija
Thursday, August 17 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

-