Refereeing controversy and calls for VAR struck again Wednesday night during a UEFA Women’s Champions League match between Chelsea and Real Madrid. There has certainly been an influx of disputes regarding on-field decisions and the use of VAR in recent months. However, the controversy in Wednesday’s matchup was unique.

The Chelsea women’s team dominated Real on the night. However, the Blues could not finish off their Spanish opponents. The Blues had a 20-4 shot advantage in the match. Although the game ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw, Chelsea had two significant incorrect decisions go against them.

With the Blues holding a 2-1 lead, Chelsea’s Jessie Fleming fouled Real Madrid forward Athenea del Castillo at the edge of the Chelsea box. The match referee awarded Real a penalty despite replays clearly showing the infraction occurred outside of the area. Olga Carmona stepped up and converted the ensuing spot kick.

Chelsea then thought they had scored the winning goal late in the game. Niamh Charles netted the winner in added time to give the Blues all three points. Nevertheless, the assistant referee flagged the play for offside. Much like the penalty incident, replays showed that Charles was well onside, and the goal should have counted.

Hayes proclaims Chelsea was ‘robbed’ due to ref mistakes

After the match, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes fumed at the decisions. “I could see from the bench that the tackle was outside the box,” proclaimed Hayes. “I’m absolutely shocked that those managing the game couldn’t see that. At this level, when you are in control of a game and important decisions like that go against you, it makes it difficult.”

“We score a really legitimate goal,” continued the soon-to-be USWNT coach. “It is embarrassing. I had to check why it was disallowed. Was it Niamh [Charles]? No. Was it Sam [Kerr] interfering with the goalkeeper? She was about seven yards away, nowhere near the keeper. I think we’ve been robbed of what was a 3-1 game.”

The bad calls could have potentially been corrected if VAR were in place on the night. The technology and extra referee, however, is not currently implemented in the Women’s Champions League until the knockout round. Hayes also previously called on VAR to be introduced in all Women’s Super League matches in October as well.

Barca stars agree with Hayes regarding VAR in Women’s Champions League

Although many have called for VAR to be completely removed from the sport, some want it expanded to include more competitions. Two of these replay proponents are Barcelona Femení stars Caroline Graham Hansen and Salma Paralluelo.

“I think [VAR] has to be used in the Champions League from minute one when the group stage starts,” Graham Hansen said following the aforementioned match. “Every year we are doing things to improve [the game], but it’s clear that it should be utilized in the group phase as well as the knockouts.”

“Like [this week], the games are intense, there are a lot of decisive situations, and, at the end of the day, I think everyone just wants games to end with the result as it should end. If we can have help, that helps.”

Paralluelo, who finished third in the 2023 Women’s Ballon d’Or, echoed her teammate’s feelings. “At the end of the day, VAR is a tool that makes things as fair as possible on the pitch because of the support it provides,” stated Paralluelo.

“Not having it can lead to wrong decisions. We need it both in the league and in the Champions League [group phase]. I think it is super necessary.”

Several other Barca women’s players have also previously called on VAR to be introduced in their domestic league. This came after the Catalan club played a contentious matchup with Atletico Madrid in October. Barca defender Mapi León was struck in the face by a flying elbow from an opponent, but the incident was not seen by officials.