Anthony Gordon's contentious winner against Arsenal unpacked

How the most contentious goal of the season unfolded: Every word VAR officials said as they made triple check on Anthony Gordon’s controversial winner for Newcastle against Arsenal

  • VAR audio was released on Tuesday’s edition of Match Officials Mic’d Up
  • Gordon’s winner on November 4 left Arsenal and Mikel Arteta absolutely furious
  • It’s a three-team title race… Toney could lead Arsenal to glory: It’s All Kicking Off 

It is highly likely to be the most contentious goal of the entire Premier League season.

Anthony Gordon’s winner for Newcastle United against Arsenal on November 4 was awarded only after a rare triple check by the Video Assistant Referees.

VAR Andy Madley and assistant VAR Stuart Burt checked whether Joe Willock managed to keep the ball in play in the lead-up to the goal, whether Joelinton fouled Gabriel while knocking the ball back across, and whether Gordon was offside as he scored.

The goal was allowed to stand and Newcastle went on to take all three points at St James’ Park – but the debate about what unfolded still hasn’t died down.

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta labelled the decision to let the goal stand ’embarrassing’ and ‘a disgrace’, with Arsenal doubling down on his comments with a strongly-worded club statement.

Anthony Gordon’s winning goal for Newcastle against Arsenal proved highly contentious 

The first issue VAR checked was whether Joe Willock managed to keep the ball in play

Officials then tried to determine whether this was a push on Gabriel by Joelinton

The third part to the VAR check was whether Gordon was offside when he fired the ball home

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On Tuesday night, the full VAR audio was released on the Match Officials Mic’d Up show with referees’ chief Howard Webb insisting ‘the process was correct’.

He said: ‘The VAR went through that diligently and identified no clear evidence to intervene to overturn the goal.

‘It was an unusual situation with three aspects for the VAR to check whether the on-field decision of goal should be overturned.’

The argument continued even after the show with fans describing it as ‘a massive cop out’ for Webb after host Michael Owen didn’t challenge him on the decision-making.

Here’s how the controversial goal and VAR process unfolded using the disclosed audio.

Referee’s chief Howard Webb (left) discussed the VAR decision-making with Michael Owen on the Match Officials Mic’d Up show on Tuesday night

The match is in the 64th minute and still goalless as Newcastle United launch an attack. 

As Willock races over to retrieve the ball before it goes out of play, we hear one of the assistant referees on the pitch shouting: ‘Staying in, staying in. Still in, still in, still in.’

VAR Andy Madley: Potential ball out of play.

Willock crosses to the back post, where Joelinton beats Gabriel to the ball as the Arsenal defender goes to ground, nodding it back across for Gordon to score from close range. Newcastle begin their celebrations.

VAR Madley: Waiting for on-field decision.

Surrounded by protesting Arsenal players, match referee Stuart Attwell says: ‘No, no, they’ll check, they’ll check.’

VAR Madley: Stu, can you confirm your on-field decision please?

As Gordon celebrates the opening goal, VAR Andy Madley is asking on-field referee Stuart Attwell whether he has awarded the goal

Attwell confirms the on-field decision is for Gordon’s goal to stand as the VAR checks begin

The first thing to be checked and cleared is a potential offside in Newcastle’s build-up play

Referee Attwell, who is still surrounded by Arsenal players: Woah, let me talk to the VAR, give me space! Mads [Madley], on-field decision is goal. The ask on the pitch is for ball out of play on the goalline.

VAR Madley: Confirmed Stuart. Checking on-field decision of goal. OK, I’m going to need to check… I’ve cleared that one, yep, I’ve cleared that one [potential initial offside in the lead-up].

VAR Madley to replay operator: So I’m interested in… I’d like you to go GLT [goal line technology] mate. Have you got GLT camera there?

Replay operator: It’s not going to be in there. We can got to this one. [Switches to camera on opposite side of the pitch nearest where Willock reaches the ball].

VAR: OK, yep that’s fine.

Referee Attwell: ‘And Burty [AVAR Stuart Burt], normal contact on the challenge on the back post.

VAR Madley [watching Willock replay]: OK, stop it at that point. Thank you, thank you.

The replay operator zooms in on Willock.

VAR Madley asks if goalline technology is available to check if the ball remained in play

The first point of contention to check is whether Joe Willock manages to keep the ball in play

VAR Madley and AVAR Stuart Burt decide the ball isn’t out because of the curvature of the ball

VAR Madley: So Stu [Burt], can you have a look at this as well before we go check the goal? For me, I’ve got no conclusive evidence that that ball is out.

AVAR Burt: No, I agree. I was going to say you can’t go on that angle. Although it looks out, you’ve got the curvature of the ball.

VAR Madley: Just one second then. So go two frames forward. The ball is already back in play/on the line. Two frames forward.

The replay operator moves the footage two frames forward.

Replay operator: That’s two frames.

VAR Madley: There we go, so that’s fine. Run that through please.

AVAR Burt: Now you’ve got the challenge on the back post.

The footage switches to an angle with a clearer view of Joelinton and Gabriel competing for the ball.

The role of the assistant VAR is to keep the on-field referee updated as the check progresses

Various camera angles are used to ascertain whether Joelinton has fouled Gabriel

Having viewed the potential foul from several angles, they decide no foul was committed

VAR Madley: Yep, so I’m going to check that. So running that through please. So looking for offside position first of all. No offside position. Now doing a check of a potential foul on Gabriel, so have you got high behind [camera angle] for me please?

The camera angle switches to a view from behind the goal.

VAR Madley: That’s great. Just run that through a little.

The replay runs through a number of times.

AVAR Burt to referee Attwell: Stu, we’ve cleared the ball staying in. We are now checking for the back post challenge mate.

Replay operator: High behind from the other end which might be better.

The camera angle switches to the view from the opposite end of the stadium.

Referee Attwell: Ok, no problem. There could be a handball in there as well.

VAR Madley: I don’t see a specific foul on Gabriel. I see two hands on his back but I don’t see anything of a push that warrants him flying forward like that.

The replay of the foul is played a few more times.

A number of different camera angles are used to determine whether Joelinton fouls Gabriel

One discussion with regards to the offside is which part of Joelinton’s body the ball comes off

AVAR Burt: Right, there’s a potential, as Stuart said, there is a potential for handball but it’s not the goalscorer giving the handball.

VAR Madley: No, it’s not the goalscorer. And it’s not deliberate from him. Right Stuart [Burt], I need you to look at the screen for me mate. So I’m seeing that the ball comes off Joelinton with no specific foul there. Can you just confirm that the player is onside as well when it comes off Joelinton?

Referee Attwell: Talk to me Burty, how is it looking?

The camera angle switches again to check whether Joelinton handled the ball.

With the players asking for a decision, Attwell asks Stuart Burt ‘how is it looking?’

VAR Madley: Just delay, we are just checking mate.

AVAR Burt to replay operator: Have you got a high behind?

VAR Madley: So can we confirm that is off Joelinton? And the point of contact on Joelinton?

Replay operator: Just looking for a better angle to find the point of contact for you.

The camera angle switches again.

Checking the potential foul by Joelinton and the point of contact off him takes some time

VAR Madley: So can we confirm that is off Joelinton? And the point of contact on Joelinton? And we just need to check that he’s in an onside position then as we run it through.

AVAR Burt: I agree. Don’t forget, the keeper is out as well.

Replay operator: Struggle to find a point of contact here.

The angle is now tight in on Joelinton and Gabriel

VAR Madley: OK, OK, just keep going down, roll that forward. Forward. Roll that forward. OK, so it’s going to be off Joelinton’s hip potentially.

AVAR Burt: Let me just tell Stu that we are just checking the offside position now. [To Attwell] Stu, we are now checking offside position for the goalscorer.

Referee Attwell: Say it again.

AVAR Burt: We are just checking offside position for the goalscorer now mate. So we have cleared the foul as well.

Madley is still checking where on Joelinton’s body it strikes him

VAR Madley: ‘So roll that one frame forward. Stu [Burt], are you happy that it is the best point of contact that we’ve got?

AVAR Burt: Yep, from the angles that are available.

VAR Madley: So we might need to go check the offside now. Check the offside now.

The third part was to check whether Anthony Gordon was offside when he puts the ball in

We then potentially hear Attwell in the background saying to players: ‘It’s an important goal for both teams, let’s get it right.’

The camera angle switches again to check for the offside against Gordon.

VAR Madley: So we might need to go check the offside now. Check the offside now. OK, so he’s clearly on. Looking at Gabriel’s body position there, his shoulder…

AVAR Burt: Yeah, but you’ve got the second rearmost is the goalkeeper.

The camera angle switches again to the opposite side, the one used to check whether Willock kept the ball in play.

VAR Madley: Yeah, that’s right, yeah.

AVAR Burt: So now you’ve got to decide, because you’ve got… I don’t know where the ball is because the ball is being hidden from Joelinton here. So you don’t know where the ball is. And you’ve got no conclusive evidence of Gordon being ahead of the ball.

The camera angle switches back to the original one for the offside and back again.

AVAR Burt: So with the reverse angle that you’ve got, you have not got any opportunity there of where the ball is. With that in my opinion…

VAR Madley: To award the goal?

AVAR Burt: I think you have to award the goal on the evidence.

VAR Madley: So we go check complete on the goal?

AVAR Burt: I agree.

The VAR official confirm that Gordon was ‘clearly not offside’ and so can award the goal

Replay operator: Do you want to see it into the net first?

VAR Madley: Yeah, yeah, roll that through. Just delay, delay. Ball then goes in, that’s fine. On-field decision of goal, yeah?

AVAR Burt: Confirmed.

VAR Madley to Attwell: Stu, it’s Mads. We are confirming the on-field decision of goal. On-field decision of goal.

Referee Attwell: Mads, confirming that I can award the goal?

VAR Madley: Confirmed, award the goal. Restart with a kick-off.

At the conclusion of the near four minute VAR check, Attwell confirms the goal to spark further celebrations.

Having watched replays of the ball being put into the net, the VARs decide to give the goal

Eventually, after the check which lasted four minutes, referee Attwell can confirm the goal


Owen: Well, a complicated decision there, Howard. It caused a lot of anger in certain quarters. Have you got any problems with any of the checks?

Webb: It’s good to be back to talk through some of these big moments and this was a big moment. An unusual situation with three aspects for the VAR to check whether or not the on-field decision of goal should be overturned. 

We see the ball getting very close to the goalline, don’t forget we have an assistant referee who was right in line. The ball doesn’t have a lot of pace as it goes to the goalline and he’s looking right down the line, better than any of our cameras. 

We know the ball is curved so it can be overhanging the line. We need evidence that it’s out and we don’t have that here. 

The ball then comes over and Joelinton challenges Gabriel. Could be a foul, might be a foul. The VAR decides that the evidence from the footage isn’t clear enough to intervene with the recommendation for a clear error. 

Webb was happy the VAR officials had followed the correct procedures in awarding the goal

I think the talk that we’ve seen after this situation, the opinion that it’s split across a lot of analysis since the situation suggests that was a correct non-intervention because of the subjectivity. 

Then one of those unusual situation where the ball goes between two players, trying to identify exactly when the ball leaves Joelinton is really difficult to establish because of the player being so close together. 

So, again, no conclusive evidence that Gordon was offside when the ball was last touched to him. 

Therefore, the VAR went through that diligently and identified no clear evidence to intervene to overturn the goal. So the process actually was correct.


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