PORTO (Reuters) – A penalty to Portugal suddenly turned into a penalty for opponents Switzerland after an extraordinary incident involving the VAR system at the Nations League on Wednesday.
Portugal were 1-0 ahead early in the second half when Swiss midfielder Steven Zuber, running onto a through ball from Xherdan Shaqiri, went down under a challenge from Nelson Semedo and appealed for a penalty.
Play continued, Portugal then went straight down the other end and were awarded a penalty for a foul on Bernardo Silva.
Amid furious Swiss protests, referee Felix Brych, after consulting the video assistant, then decided to review the Swiss incident on the pitchside monitor and awarded them the spot kick.
It was similar to an incident in a Serie A match this season when a goal for SPAL became a penalty for their opponents Fiorentina.
With the score at 1-1, Mattia Valoti scored from a counterattack to put SPAL in front — but the referee decided to review an incident at the other end in a previous move. The decision: a penalty to Fiorentina, which they converted and went on to win 4-1.
The incident will raise the question of how long referees should allow play to continue before stopping for a review.
Brych was clearly listening to observations from the VAR officials through his earpiece as Portugal attacked but there was no convenient moment to stop play.
And had he decided against awarding the Swiss a penalty — would he then have reviewed the foul on Silva to confirm the penalty for Portugal?
Portugal coach Fernando Santos said it was a matter for European governing body UEFA.
“I was asked about it in our last game because we didn’t have VAR and everyone was complaining about a penalty that wasn’t given,” he said, referring to the 1-1 draw with Serbia in March.
“It’s not up to me to judge these matters,” he said.
“I think VAR is important, I think it can help but those who are in charge have to pay attention to this…otherwise we will all start saying that VAR is no good, when it could be a really useful tool but sometimes it isn’t.”
Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic said the incident was “funny” but praised the referee for following the right procedure.
“In the space of one minute, we had a penalty awarded against us and then in our favour,” he said. “It’s the way the game is going.” “In this case, it probably wasn’t clear enough for the referee to interrupt the game… but this possibility is in the rules. It was the right decision and the referee handled it