Schalke almost pulled off a memorable result against Manchester City, but their task was made harder by malfunctioning VAR. While it's great that the technology exists, it still must prove its reliability.
Schalke's star man on the night, Weston McKennie, was crestfallen at full time. A helter-skelter game that Schalke led with five minutes to go somehow ended in defeat, with factors beyond their control not helping their cause.
McKennie was outstanding and Schalke played with heart and quality, but for a long while the game's enduring narrative had appeared to be the scar VAR left on it. Play was held up to confirm Sergio Aguero's opener after it was adjudged Aymeric Laporte's aerial challenge on Mark Uth in the build-up was nothing more than clumsy. But that delay was made to look like a fleeting moment compared with the confusion that unfolded for Schalke's leveler.
The four minutes between the ball striking Nicolas Otamendi's arm and the penalty being awarded felt like an eternity. Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande of Spain became increasingly fraught as confirmation of the penalty failed to feed through his earpiece, with Manchester City players encircling him as they tried to influence the decision.
The way it should work
By contrast, over in Madrid where Atletico were facing Juventus, a penalty call was assessed and rejected by VAR all in a matter of seconds. In fact, several key moments in the game at the Wanda Metropolitano were determined by the quick and effective use of technology, demonstrating how the technology should be referred to and a decision made within a specific time period, as seen in other sports leagues such as the NFL (National Football League).
A technical glitch was the reason given for the hold-up in Gelsenkirchen, but the two faces of VAR demonstrated once again that when the technology works, it's an asset to the game. When it doesn't, it causes havoc. The technology should have been perfected before UEFA decided to introduce it in the knockout stages of the continent's premier club competition. This is not a drill.
There is an argument that VAR should have been used to rule out Schalke's second, with Salif Sane's arm beyond the line of offside when he was hauled to the ground by Fernandinho, but the deployment of the technology at the cost of another four-minute break would have been too much to bear.
If the first half narrative was hogged by VAR, the second was all about the brilliance of Manchester City and Schalke's inability to see out what would have been a glorious result against all the odds. Schalke gave everything in a competition that continues to liberate them from their domestic trials, but VAR threatened to ruin that. For the good of the game, particularly at an elite level where the eyes of the world are watching, the technology that was introduced to bring justice must also prove its reliability.