Hebei China Fortune coach Manuel Pellegrini called for limits to the use of VAR in the Chinese Super League after a string of referrals saw his side play into the 101st minute.
Pellegrini also accused officials of favouring hosts Guizhou Zhicheng in their use of the new technology, after Hebei’s 3-2 away win stretched to 11 extra minutes following at least three VAR referrals in the second half.
It was not the only incident on Sunday involving the video assistant referee (VAR), which was also at the centre of a long delay before it correctly allowed Cedric Bakambu’s debut goal for Beijing Guoan.
VAR looks set to make its World Cup debut this year but football’s rule-makers will be keen to avoid similar incidents in Russia.
“VAR should be used more reasonably,” Beijing Youth Daily quoted Pellegrini, the former Manchester City, and Real Madrid boss, as saying.
“It did not bring much help to today’s game and I think that the number of VARs used should be limited, rather than unlimited viewing.
“And regardless of the home team or the visiting team, the number of VARs used should be the same.”
VAR has been implemented in top European leagues including the German Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A for game-changing decisions and is being used for a full season for the first time in China.
But after just two rounds of matches in the new Chinese Super League season, it is already a major talking point.
VAR ‘a new challenge’
Bakambu’s debut CSL goal, following his 40-million-euro move from Villarreal to Beijing Guoan, was delayed for more than 70 seconds while VAR overruled an initial offside decision.
The striker’s goal proved decisive in Beijing’s 2-1 away win at Fabio Capello’s Jiangsu Suning.
The FIFA Council, global football’s top decision-making body, is expected to approve VAR for the World Cup when it meets in Colombia on Thursday and Friday.
At the World Cup, VAR will be used when there is doubt surrounding any of four key game-changing situations: goals, penalty decisions, straight red cards or mistaken identity of a sanctioned player.
Chinese football is following the same blueprint, but some local media and fans made clear their unhappiness at how often VAR is being used.
“The most critical point is the number of uses and how to use VAR more reasonably so that it does not detract from the authority of the referee and break up the fluency of the game,” Soccer News said in a comment piece.
“The level of CSL referees has always been in need of improvement. The introduction of VAR technology now is not a reduction of the burden on the referees but instead presents a new challenge.”
Guangzhou Daily, a state newspaper, was more critical, saying that two-thirds of the CSL matches this season have used VAR and that it was threatening to make referees redundant.