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VAR’s difficult debut in top South American club competition

September 21, 2018
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Dede of Brazil's Cruzeiro, left, and Esteban Andrada, goalkeeper of Argentina's Boca Juniors, clash during a Copa Libertadores quarterfinal soccer match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)

SAO PAULO (AP) — As UEFA resists introducing video assistant referees in Europe’s Champions League, the technology’s debut in South America’s most prestigious club competition hasn’t cut out complaints about major decisions.

Brazilian team Cruzeiro even believes it has been on the receiving end of “one of the biggest refereeing mistakes in football history.”

Boca Juniors was leading 1-0 in the first leg of its Copa Libertadores quarterfinal on Wednesday when Cruzeiro defender Dede was sent off in the 75th minute as he tried to equalize.

Esteban Andrada had punched the ball and as Dede attempted a header, he collided with the Argentine goalkeeper.

With Andrada’s mouth bleeding and medical treatment being given on the pitch, Paraguayan referee Eber Aquino turned to the television on the sidelines to view replays.

Players from both teams looked confused and, after a short delay, the referee showed the 30-year-old Dede his first red card in eight years.

“The referee had VAR with so much precision and technology on his side,” Dede said. “I heard this was going to help, but it ended up giving us a problem.”

Stunned by the decision, Cruzeiro conceded another goal 10 minutes later at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires. The match ended 2-0 and Dede, the bedrock of his team’s defense, is suspended for the second leg in Belo Horizonte on Oct. 4.

Argentina’s leading sports newspaper Ole, famous for its nationalism, called the red card “unusual.”

Andrada requires jaw surgery but the goalkeeper’s agent, Luciano Nicotra, called the clash accidental.

Players said Aquino accused Dede of being “cruel” by charging into Andrada. The referee, however, did not provide a public explanation.

Here is a look at other talking points in South American football this week:

RIVER’S SAVIOR

Independiente and River Plate drew 0-0 in their Copa Libertadores quarterfinal thanks to Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani enjoying one of his best performances of the season.

The most impressive save came in the second half in Avellaneda when Armani produced a flying stop to deny Independiente’s Emmanuel Gigliotti.

The second leg between the two Argentinian giants is on Oct. 2.

BRAZILIANS EYE SEMIS

Cruzeiro might be in trouble in the Copa Libertadores, but the two other Brazilian clubs in the tournament are likely semifinalists.

Defending champion Gremio won 2-0 at Argentina’s Atletico Tucuman in a match that produced a correct VAR-led decision.

Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan gave midfielder Gervasio Nunez a red card after he saw the player had intentionally stepped on the back of Gremio’s Alisson.

The second leg in Porto Alegre will be on Oct. 2, with the winner next playing Independiente or River Plate.

On Thursday, it was Palmeiras’ turn to win 2-0 away, putting Chile’s Colo-Colo in a tough spot for the Oct. 3 second leg in Sao Paulo. The winner meets Boca Juniors or Cruzeiro.

URUGUAY SIDELINES REFEREES

Uruguay’s football association (AUF) requires a total rebrand after a series of corruption scandals and must approve new statutes, as required by FIFA, so that teams from the tiny South American nation can take part in international competition.

Players and coaches will take part in future AUF decisions, but referees are protesting after being left out of the process.

AUF executives said referees are its employees, and shouldn’t be able to decide, among other things, how much they are paid.

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