VAR gives Mainz bizarre penalty after half-time whistle
BERLIN -- Pablo de Blasis scored one of the most remarkable goals in Bundesliga history -- during the half-time break -- as Mainz beat relegation rivals Freiburg 2-0 amid fresh protests against Monday night games.
Daniel Brosinski tried his luck before half-time and his shot took a deflection off Freiburg defender Marc Oliver Kempf's hand.
Referee Guido Winkmann, who had allowed play to continue, then blew for half-time and was on his way off the pitch when notified by video referee Bibiana Steinhaus, who was watching in Cologne, that he should check a replay.
Winkmann watched the incident again on the pitch-side screen and decided Kempf deliberately put his hand to the ball.
But Freiburg's players were already off the pitch and entering their changing room when they had to be called back.
"We're not going out," Freiburg coach Christian Streich responded as he led his confused players back into the changing room. Some were looking at TVs to determine exactly what was going on.
The Freiburg team eventually emerged back onto the pitch, where Winkmann explained to a bemused Streich that it was a penalty for the home side.
De Blasis, who had to wait for Alexander Schwolow to re-take his place in goal, held his nerve to score inside the left corner as the Freiburg goalkeeper dived the other way.
"We thought that when the whistle goes for half-time, that the first 45 minutes are ticked off," Freiburg sporting director Jochen Saier told Eurosport. "That wasn't the case in this scene, we have to accept that with heavy hearts. Things are getting stranger."
After finally getting their half-time break, the players were forced to wait again for the second half after Mainz fans threw hundreds of rolls of toilet paper onto the pitch in protest against Monday night games. After the stewards cleared the paper strands, they threw another round they held back in reserve to delay the second half even further.
Protests also delayed the initial kickoff, and the whole game took place to the sound of shrill whistles as supporters made their displeasure known with the Bundesliga.
A mistake from Schwolow in the final minutes allowed De Blasis to seal the home side's first win since January.
Defeat meant Freiburg took Mainz's place in the relegation zone due to an inferior goal difference. Wolfsburg is also under threat with four rounds remaining, while survival looks increasingly unlikely for Hamburger SV and Cologne, eight and nine points adrift of safety, respectively.
Speaking to reporters after the match, referee Winkmann said that he acted within the rules of the game, adding that -- unlike after the final whistle -- they encourage to take action as long as he has not left the field of play.
"I received the info from [the VAR control centre in] Cologne that it was a hand ball. Because I already blew the half-time whistle, I asked the players to wait. I then reviewed the incident on the touchline," Winkmann said, adding that he then made the decision to award a penalty to Mainz.
"It is like it is. The half-time whistle only interrupts the game. If it had happened after the final whistle, we would not have been able to review it. That's a fundamental thing in the regulations," he added.
"That's definitely unusual. It has never happened before. There is always something new. The crossbar might break and then this or that happens. That's football. If I were the club on the receiving end, I would not be happy. But the VAR is here, and it made the game more just once again because I had no chance to spot the hand ball during the normal run of play.
"After the match, you can only hand out red cards. That was different in the past. Those are the rules. I've been a ref since 1989, and it's phenomenal how the rules of the game have changed since then."
ESPN FC's Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld contributed to this report.