River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo blasts use of VAR in Copa Lib loss to Lanus
River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo has questioned the implementation of VAR in South America after the club's surprise elimination from the Libertadores Cup semifinal on Tuesday at the hands of Lanus.
Gallardo's side took a 1-0 first-leg lead into Tuesday's encounter at Lanus and had a 2-0 advantage on the night after 23 minutes played.
River could have extended their lead had they been awarded a 40th-minute penalty. River's Ignacio Scocco cut inside the rival's area and the ball came off Ivan Marcone's hand.
Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan did not see the action and did not request a review despite Scocco's protests.
The Video Assistant Referee team did not recommend one, either.
"This defeat is difficult to digest," Gallardo told reporters. "It was a clear penalty. I prefer that a referee continues to make mistakes but not that seven judges are mistaken. You don't understand how it can work for the two teams or if it only works for one depending on the result."
The VAR, implemented for the first time in South America at the Copa Libertadores, was later used, however, to award Lanus a decisive penalty in the 69th minute following the hosts' comeback.
With the score 3-3 on aggregate, Roldan requested to review if River's Gonzalo Montiel had pushed Nicholas Pasquini in the area before awarding the spot-kick which Alejandro Silva converted as Lanús reached the Libertadores final for the first time.
"All the explanations we have been given for a while now about VAR, including the investment so that football has more justice, was not present," Gallardo said. Tuesday's elimination is a hammer blow for River ahead of the Superliga Clasico at home to Boca Juniors on Sunday.
"As painful as this is we cannot stop, we have to continue," Gallardo said.
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.