As the Premier League’s record goalscorer and a former England captain, Alan Shearer is entitled to expect a good reception at most grounds he visits.
Yet when Shearer appeared on the big screen before kick-off at Villa Park on Saturday, he was jeered by the majority in the ground.
The reason? VAR, of course. As part of a Premier League video, Shearer was explaining how, and where, VAR would be used during the game. He got the sort of response that a stand-up comedian receives when a few jokes have fallen flat.
Sadio Mane struck deep in stoppage time to give Liverpool a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa
As with most clubs, the technology has few friends here. Villa believe they have been on the wrong end of some poor calls this season, notably against Burnley, Arsenal and Brighton.
On Saturday, it was Liverpool who got the raw deal. Trailing to Trezeguet’s 21st-minute volley, Jurgen Klopp’s team thought they had equalised when Roberto Firmino found space between Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett to guide Sadio Mane’s cross beyond Tom Heaton.
The goal was quickly ruled out for offside, with that decision upheld after a conversation between referee Jon Moss and Martin Atkinson, leading the VAR. The problem was that it was hard to fathom how they had reached that conclusion – no matter how many times you saw the replays.
Mane's winner paved over more VAR controversy when an earlier Roberto Firmino equaliser was ruled out after he was adjudged to be offside by just an armpit
Firmino looks on as he waits to see if his equaliser is confirmed shorty before it was ruled out
From every angle, Firmino appeared to be level with Mings when Mane crossed, meaning the goal should have been given. Yet, apparently, the Brazilian’s ‘armpit’ was offside.
You read that right. What started as a joke among fans and pundits to make light of baffling VAR calls during the opening weeks of the campaign is now being used as official justification by the Premier League.
Such was the level of ridicule for the decision on social media that the Premier League released an explanatory tweet, above the image which – apparently – proved Firmino was in an illegal position.
‘Liverpool's Roberto Firmino was flagged offside before putting the ball in the net against Aston Villa and