November 30, 2023 2 min read

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group F - Paris St Germain v Newcastle United - Parc des Princes, Paris, France - November 28, 2023 
Paris St Germain's Goncalo Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Marco Asensio and Vitinha appeal to referee Szymon Marciniak for a penalty REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Newcastle United experienced a heart-wrenching setback in their pursuit of a historic away victory against Paris Saint-Germain, as a late penalty awarded to the French side following a contentious VAR decision thwarted their hopes.

Despite Alexander Isak's 24th-minute goal giving Newcastle a 1-0 lead, PSG relentlessly attacked the Magpies' goal throughout the second half without finding the net. The turning point occurred in the fifth minute of injury time when Ousmane Dembélé's attempt to maneuver past Tino Livramento inside the Newcastle box resulted in substantial penalty appeals from the PSG squad.

Referee Szymon Marciniak, typically regarded as one of Europe's elite officials, promptly consulted the pitch-side monitor to review the replays. The footage revealed that Dembélé had kicked the ball into Livramento's chest at point-blank range before it ricocheted onto the Newcastle defender's arm.

While many viewers expected Marciniak to dismiss PSG's appeals, he surprised by signaling for a penalty kick.

"He's given it, I can't believe it," exclaimed TNT Sports commentator Darren Fletcher. "How on earth has he given that?" Co-commentator Ally McCoist joined in, stating, "That is a shambles. A shambles. Honestly, it's not on. If that's a penalty kick, we might as well give the game up. That's nonsense. If he's the best ref in the business—and he probably is—how can he give that?"

Kylian Mbappé confidently converted the penalty, securing a crucial 1-1 draw for PSG. A defeat would have left the Parisians' fate beyond their control, adding to the disappointment for Newcastle's players and the devoted fans who traveled to Paris.

After the match, Newcastle manager Eddie Howe expressed his struggle to accept the decision, stating, "I feel really flat, but at the same time very, very pleased with what the players have given today. We rode our luck at times, but I think we deserved that and we sort of ran out of luck at the end because I didn't think it was a penalty."

TOPSHOT - Paris Saint-Germain's French forward #07 Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League 1st round, day 5, Group F football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Newcastle United on November 28, 2023 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

He emphasized the speed of the live ball and the initial impact on Livramento's chest as key factors not apparent in the replay. "I don't think there is a case when it hits another body part first and his hands are low," Howe concluded.

Interestingly, Marciniak had refrained from awarding PSG a penalty earlier in the match when the ball struck Lewis Miley's arm after bouncing off his leg, highlighting inconsistencies not only across matches but within the same game.

In a UEFA meeting in April, several suggestions were proposed to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), including not penalizing players for handball if the ball had previously deflected off their own body—a factor not addressed in the current IFAB rule book.

With Borussia Dortmund securing a 3-1 victory over AC Milan, all three teams—PSG, Milan, and Newcastle—remain in contention for a spot in the last 16. A Paris victory in the final Group F fixture against Dortmund would ensure Mbappé and his teammates advance, while Newcastle faces Milan in their concluding group-stage match.

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