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Joe Harper: I’m still raging after Aberdeen were let down by VAR in Europe yet again

What is the point of VAR if it is not used for incidents such as the foul on Jack MacKenzie in Aberdeen's 3-2 loss to PAOK in the Europa Conference League?

Aberdeen's Jack MacKenzie goes down in the box and appeals for a penalty against PAOK. Image: Shutterstock.
Aberdeen's Jack MacKenzie goes down in the box and appeals for a penalty against PAOK. Image: Shutterstock.

Aberdeen are right to feel a sense of injustice after the shocking failure to award a penalty for a blatant foul on Jack MacKenzie in the 3-2 loss to PAOK.

I am still raging that a stonewall penalty was not only overlooked by the referee, but was not even the subject of a VAR review.

I watched the game from a box at Pittodrie and we were all able to watch immediate replays of Vieirinha’s foul on MacKenzie.

The PAOK defender missed the ball completely and brought MacKenzie down.

It was a clear penalty, but the ref and the VAR official missed it.

Austrian referee Sebastian Gishamer did not award a spot-kick – which is where VAR comes in.

VAR official Alan Kijas should have watched the incident and advised the referee to review the incident.

Everyone in the box I was in saw from the replays it was a stonewaller, so surely the whistler would have as well if advised to review the footage?

But he wasn’t.

Which makes me wonder – just what is the point in VAR?

Aberdeen were badly let down by the officials in the loss to group leaders PAOK.

The failure to award a penalty for the foul on MacKenzie and then to have no VAR review are both shocking decisions.

With the Dons 2-1 up when MacKenzie was fouled, if a penalty had been awarded – and in all likelihood converted – Barry Robson’s side would have won the Group G match.

In tennis players have the opportunity to call for a number of Hawkeye reviews if they think a ball that has been called out has actually landed inside the court.

They should introduce something similar in football.

If a team believes there is a contentious issue that requires a VAR review, but it has not happened, they should have the chance to call for one.

Each team should have the chance to use, say one or two VAR calls, during the course of a game.

PAOK’s Stefan Schwab celebrates after scoring to make it 3-2 during the UEFA Europa Conference League match against Aberdeen. Image: SNS

That could hopefully go some way to eradicating the costly mistakes because, let’s face it, VAR is not doing what we were promised it would.

Unfortunately that dramatic loss to PAOK has effectively ended Aberdeen’s hopes of qualifying from the group stages.

Group leaders PAOK have nine points from nine with Eintracht Frankfurt sitting on six.

Aberdeen have just one point from three games which is not enough.

The Dons played well against PAOK and showed they are on the right track, which is why the loss will be such a painful kick in the teeth.

Aberdeen’s Bojan Miovski celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against PAOK. Image: SNS.

However, they must not let their frustration and anger at the loss and refereeing calls eat away at them.

They have to bounce back by securing three points against Kilmarnock in the Premiership on Sunday.

The bottom line is Aberdeen need to start consistently winning games domestically to begin moving up the league table.

There can be absolutely no excuses of Euro hangovers when the Dons travel to Rugby Park.

When I played for Aberdeen, we had European games on a Wednesday night and then played on Saturday.

There was no fatigue, mental of physical.

PAOK’s Stefan Schwab collides with Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie. Image: SNS.

Aberdeen have to be up for it and firing on all cylinders for the trip to Kilmarnock.

The Dons qualified for Europe last season by finishing third in the Premiership.

They have to start racking up the wins in the league to ensure they are in a strong position to do that again.

The best way to ease the hurt of that bitter loss to PAOK is to beat Kilmarnock.

Dante Polvara celebrates putting Aberdeen two up against PAOK in the Europa Conference League at Pittodrie. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

Time to use Sokler and Gueye

Aberdeen boss Barry Robson needs to turn to either Ester Sokler or Pape Habib Gueye to partner Bojan Miovski.

Miovski was the sole striker in the 3-2 loss to PAOK – but I expect Robson to go back to two up top against Kilmarock on Sunday.

Duk was on the bench, but was the only striker to come on against PAOK.

He is not producing at the levels of last season and Duk has only scored one goal in the campaign so far.

Aberdeen striker Duk during the 1-1 draw with HJK Helsinki. Image: Shutterstock.

It is time for Duk to spend some time on the bench and for Robson to turn to Sokler or Gueye to start.

Both were signed in six-figure deals during the summer but have been used sparingly.

Sokler and Gueye have only had appearances off the bench.

Let’s see what they can do from the start.

They both need to be given the opportunity to show what they can do.

If Sokler and Gueye aren’t good enough to take over Duk’s position at the moment, they shouldn’t be at the club.

Duk is not producing, but still getting in the team ahead of these two.

Losing that starting slot would give Duk time to regain his form.

Hopefully he can then come back to the levels shown last season.

But, in the meantime, Sokler and Gueye need the chance to show their talent.

Barron back to his top form again

One of the real positives of recent games is the return to form of Connor Barron after last season was hindered by injuries.

Barron was superb against PAOK and the game turned when he was one of three players taken off.

Aberdeen’s Connor Barron (L) and PAOK’s Stefan Schwab in action. Image: SNS.

The Reds were 2-0 up when Barron was taken off with Bojan Miovski and Dante Polvara.

Aberdeen have opened up fresh contract talks with Barron, and hopefully he signs a new deal as his is a fantastic talent.

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