Craig Salmon’s Soapbox: VAR is still a massive grey area after England’s draw with Italy

Burnley's England centre-back James Tarkowski
Burnley's England centre-back James Tarkowski

Craig Salmon questions whether the incident which led to Italy’s equaliser against England on Tuesday night at Wembley should have been referred to the VAR system

A clear and obvious mistake? I am not too sure England debutant James Tarkowski treading on the foot of Italy’s Federico Chiesa warranted a referral to the VAR system on Tuesday night.

IN PICTURES: New boy James Tarkowski on wrong end of VAR verdict as England are held by Italy

But that is what German referee Deniz Aytekin was instructed to do by his video assistant after initially awarding a corner kick.

After trotting to the halfway line at Wembley to view the footage, Aytekin – after a few moments of deliberation – turned around and pointed to the spot.

It gave the Italians a golden opportunity to equalise Jamie Vardy’s first-half opener with three minutes to go and Lorenzo Insigne duly obliged by firing past Jack Butland.

Looking at the footage, it appears technically VAR got the decision right as Tarkowski did make contact with Chiesa.

England debutant James Tarkowski (centre) can only watch as Lorenzo Insigne fires home a penalty which earned Italy a 1-1 draw at Wembley

England debutant James Tarkowski (centre) can only watch as Lorenzo Insigne fires home a penalty which earned Italy a 1-1 draw at Wembley

However, there is an argument to say that the big Burnley defender did not make any movement to tackle the Italian and was merely chasing back towards his own goal.

Where was the England defender supposed to plant his foot? Was it his fault that the Italian striker had put his foot in exactly the same place? If anything, Chiesa was on his way to ground before the contact happened.

Once the incident was slowed down on video, frame by frame, the referee had no alternative but to award the penalty kick.

The use of VAR is still a massive grey area as far as matters of opinion are concerned.

I think it’s great to look back at a tight offside decision, for example, which is a matter of fact – i.e. a player is either onside or offside.

But deciding on fouls boils down to a referee’s interpretation. And what constitutes a clear and obvious mistake?

If incidents like Tarkowski’s are to be reviewed, then potentially the game could be stopped after every decision.

In my opinion, Italy should have been handed a penalty in the opening few minutes of the match when Tarkowski’s defensive partner John Stones was caught dallying on the ball and was dispossessed by Ciro Immobile.

Through on goal, the Italian was manhandled by Stones, who was desperately trying to rectify his own mistake.

Looking at the video, Immobile was clearly impeded by Stones, who was able to get a block on the subsequent shot.

Why was the video referee not in the ear of Aytekin – who had obviously not spotted the infringement – on that occasion?

It was a shame for Tarkowski that his debut was overshadowed by the incident, especially after he had acquitted himself well during the match and must have a great chance of making the plane to Russia for this summer’s World Cup.