Tottenham 2-1 Brighton (Son 10′, Kane 79′, Stellini red card 61′ | Dunk 34′, De Zerbi red card 61′)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM — Despite outplaying Tottenham for large periods, Brighton suffered a frustrating defeat in north London with a series of controversial decisions going against them.
Goals from Son Heung-min and Harry Kane either side of a Lewis Dunk header ensured victory for Spurs, but the home side benefited from contentious calls from the referee Stuart Attwell and the VAR team throughout the game.
Afterwards, Roberto De Zerbi, who was sent off along with Spurs manager Cristian Stellini after a touchline melee involving both benches, suggested that there had been a “clear foul” on Kaoru Mitoma inside the box that went unpunished, while Brighton skipper Dunk said, “I don’t see the point of VAR in football.”
Stellini, meanwhile, acknowledged that Spurs were fortunate: “It is the first time this season we are lucky with the VAR,” he said.
“We have to enjoy this moment because we were many times not lucky with VAR. One time it happened for us.”
Here are the four most controversial incidents from the match and whether VAR got them right or wrong:
Mitoma goal disallowed
Shortly after Son had opened the scoring with his 100th Premier League strike, Mitoma thought he had equalised with a fine finish on the volley after being picked out by an equally exquisite pass from Alexis Mac Allister.
The linesman Darren Cann immediately raised his flag to signal that Mitoma had committed a handball while controlling the ball and after a lengthy VAR review, Attwell sided with that decision.
Replays were certainly inconclusive, though, with some images indicating that Mitoma had used his shoulder to set himself up for the volley, and others appearing to show it was the top of his bicep instead.
As of this season, the so-called “T-shirt line” is no longer a factor in determining whether a handball offence has been made.
Law 12 of IFAB’s rule book states: “In order to make the definition of the areas which are to be considered handball (or not) clearer, the explanatory illustration has been updated to make it clear that the arm ‘starts’ at the bottom of the armpit and not the ‘T’ shirt sleeve line.”
When it takes that long to determine a decision, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the attacker.
Verdict: Should have stood.
Mac Allister goal disallowed
Danny Welbeck thought he had silenced the Tottenham supporters who spent the afternoon booing him over his Arsenal connections after seemingly firing Brighton in front in the second half.
Initially, it looked Hugo Lloris had committed another costly error as the ball crept underneath his body, however replays showed that Mac Allister got a vital touch to divert it past him.
The Argentine twisted his body to try and get out of the way of the shot but was too close to Welbeck to do so and the ball brushed his hand on its way into the net.
Since the start of last season, the following rule has been in place: “A player will still be penalised if he commits an accidental handball immediately before scoring himself.”
Verdict: Correct decision, just.
Mitoma penalty appeal
With the scoreline level at 1-1, Brighton felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Mitoma tumbled to the floor after being caught by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg inside the box.
As Mitoma took a touch, Hojbjerg stamped on his trailing foot, sending the winger to the ground. It was a clumsy foul from the Dane and he was hugely fortunate to get away with it.
“This one is an awful decision,” said Alan Shearer on Match of the Day. “This is a clear and obvious error. It’s a howler. Stuart Attwell’s looking straight down the barrel at it. Hojbjerg stands on Mitoma, it should be a clear penalty.”
While De Zerbi was reluctant to discuss the referee and VAR’s decisions after the game, it was interesting that this was the one incident that he was prepared to discuss.
Verdict: Penalty should have been awarded.
Dunk penalty appeal
After Harry Kane had put Spurs 2-1 up with what proved to be the winning goal, Brighton had another penalty appeal waved away by Attwell after Lewis Dunk fell under pressure from Clement Lenglet.
Replays clearly showed that the Frenchman had pulled on Dunk’s shirt with both hands and while the contact was not sufficient to send the Brighton skipper sprawling, it was the type of foul that is often given outside the box.
Shirt pulls often seem to go unpunished and there needs to be greater consistency in dealing with such incidents to prevent defenders from avoiding action when clearly impeding their opponents.
Lenglet was incredibly fortunate.
Verdict: Penalty should have been awarded.