BREAKING: Why Casemiro’s goal v Forest stood but Van Dijk’s v Chelsea did not

Manchester United left it late but progressed through to the FA Cup quarter-finals after beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 at the City Ground on Wednesday evening. The showdown between the two Premier League sides wasn’t the most enthralling encounter, with Casemiro’s late goal putting the Red Devils ahead with just over a minute to go. Erik ten Hag’s men will now face fierce rivals Liverpool for a place in the semi-finals.

There was a brief moment of hope for Nuno Espirito Santo’s men as VAR checked a possible offside in the build-up to the goal, but it was eventually cleared and allowed to stand. After the Brazilian midfielder’s goal was given, there was plenty of debate on social media, with fans comparing the incident to that of Virgil van Dijk’s goal in normal time of the Carabao Cup final with Chelsea on Sunday.

The Dutchman’s header was ruled out for offside after a long and tense VAR check. In the end, Jurgen Klopp’s side won the dramatic encounter deep into extra-time, with Van Dijk netting a brilliant header from a corner to break Chelsea hearts. ESPN reporter and VAR expert Dale Johnson has now explained why Liverpool’s goal was disallowed but United’s wasn’t.

Why Casemiro’s goal was allowed to stand
VAR expert explains

After Bruno Fernades’ free-kick was headed in by the former Real Madrid star, fans were puzzled why the goal was allowed to stand when Van Dijk’s had been ruled out days earlier. Johnson took to X (formerly Twitter) clearing up any questions regarding Casemiro’s goal and Van Dijk’s header.

”As explained on Sunday, blocking is only an offside offence if it stops a player who can challenge. Raphael Varane isn’t blocking a player who could get involved,” Johnson explained.

He then followed it up with another post which stated: ”Here’s the relevant part of the offside law. The Nottingham Forest player blocked by Raphael Varane was marking the central area, rather than making a run to the dropping zone, as was the case for Levi Colwill (against Liverpool).”

The incident involving Liverpool defender was slightly different

The Dutch defender thought he’d given Liverpool the lead in the 60th minute when he headed home Andy Robertson’s free-kick. While the players were celebrating, there was a check in progress for a subjective offside – with referee Chris Kavanagh being sent to the pitch-side monitor by the VAR, John Brooks.

The goal was eventually chalked off after Wataru Endo was penalised. It’s worth noting that it wasn’t a foul by the Japan international, and it wouldn’t be ruled out if he was onside. However, the midfielder was impeding his opponent, Colwill.

While this kind of blocking is a regular occurrence in the Premier League and other competitions, there are two considerations: is the player offside, and if so, has he impacted an opponent from getting involved in the play?

In most cases, if the blocking player is offside, they aren’t stopping an opponent who has the chance to challenge for the ball; therefore, VAR won’t get involved. Goals aren’t always scored, though, which means the referees wouldn’t have to intervene.

The relevant law in this situation reads: ”In a situation where a player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball, this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball; if the player moves into the way of an opponent and impedes the opponent’s progress (e.g. blocks the opponent), the offence should be penalised under Law 12.”

When Robertson took the free-kick, Endo was in an offside position. As the ball came into the box, the midfielder blocked Colwill. From VAR’s perspective, it was judged that the Liverpool man prevented the Blues defender from being able to run into the drop zone and make a challenge.