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Serbia, Portugal could have avoided Ronaldo fury, UEFA says

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A Cristiano Ronaldo goal not given in a dramatic 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Serbia and Portugal should have stood, UEFA said on Monday.

Europe’s football governing body said the goal would have stood if the two football associations had agreed before the game to use goal-line technology.

Portugal captain Ronaldo was left fuming and got booked for dissent after his stoppage-time effort in Saturday’s Group A 2-2 draw at Serbia was cleared by Stefan Mitrovic.

Mitrovic’s clearance came after the ball had crossed the line, as shown by television replays.

With no Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in place to review the incident, match officials waved play on.

But a livid Ronaldo left the pitch seconds before the final whistle as he also threw away the captain’s armband while heading towards the tunnel.

“The decision to use goal-line technology for the European Qualifiers lies with the host association for each match,” the European football governing body said.

“If the host association plans to implement goal-line technology, they must also obtain written consent from the visiting association in order for it to be used,” UEFA added.

Match referee Danny Makkelie said on Monday that he had apologised to Portugal coach Fernando Santos and the rest of the team for the mistake.

“All I can say is that I said `sorry’ to the coach and the team about what happened.

“As a refereeing team we always work hard to take the right decisions. When we are in the news for a reason like this, it doesn’t make us happy at all,” he said.

Santos said after the game it was unacceptable not to have VAR at this level of competition.

But UEFA on Sunday said the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to install the system in time for the qualifiers.

“In 2019, UEFA had proposed to (world football governing body) FIFA the implementation of VAR in the current World Cup qualifiers,” it said.

“The impact of the pandemic on operational and logistical capabilities led UEFA to delay the implementation of VAR in the Europa League group phase (to 2021/2022 instead of 2020/2021) as well as to withdraw the proposal to implement VAR in the 2022 European qualifiers.

“VAR was also not in use in the UEFA Nations League group stage in the autumn of 2020 and has therefore to-date never been used in UEFA national team qualifying group stage matches.”

FIFA, which organises the World Cup, said it was informed by UEFA in January that VAR could not be used in qualifiers.

It had said this was due to the “issues and restrictions” caused by the novel coronavirus.

The result left Serbia top of the group on four points from two games, ahead of Portugal on goal difference.

The two teams meet again in the reverse fixture in Portugal on Nov. 14 in the final round of matches.

Olawale Alabi

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