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Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Talking Points: What will we be discussing after Sunderland’s loss at Blackburn?

Good football, bad set pieces and VAR... plenty to talk about following the Lads’ midweek defeat in Lancashire.

Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Losing a bloody good game of football isn’t too bad

We played really well in the first half, arguably Blackburn played a bit better. After we went two-nil down early in the second, our tempo went up a gear or two, and the Lads could easily have got back into the game had we converted a couple of the chances we managed to eke out.

Rovers are a more than decent team full of seasoned Championship players and spearheaded by a striker of true quality. They went top with this win and will be right up there in the mix this year.

But the margins were so fine tonight, and so many of our players played so well yet still have so much more to show, that I feel the side can leave Lancashire with our heads held high.

Add to this the fact that both of the Blackburn goals were of questionable legality, and it’s difficult to feel too down after this performance. We probably didn’t deserve to lose, but that’s football.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Does the Championship need VAR?

Many people really hate VAR. It slows the game down, it ruins those moments of joy when the net ripples. It’s still a human system, and because of this, it doesn’t eliminate mistakes entirely. Some situations are still judgment calls that require the application of the laws by a person with experience.

But it is clear that if Mr Pawson had the help of pitchside VAR this evening, Sunderland wouldn’t have gone 1-0 down and would likely have gone 0-1 up with a penalty kick. If the automatic video offside check was in operation, we might not have gone 2-0 down either.

We can complain all we like about the standard of refereeing, but as I wrote in “2 Up, 2 Down” at the weekend, unless we have a bigger pool of officials to choose from, the quality is not going to go up.

Newcastle United v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Referee Craig Pawson views the VAR screen and awards a penalty during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and AFC Bournemouth at St. James Park on September 17, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

And how many young people are willing to risk verbal and physical abuse to rise through the ranks of grassroots football to get to the point of competing with the current set of refs?

So either we suck up the mistakes from those with the whistle, get involved as refs ourselves, or we lobby for VAR to be used in tier two. The stakes are so high, promotion to the Premier League is worth hundreds of millions of pounds, and at the end of the season, it could rest on a decision made in this game.

VAR is deemed good enough for the Champions League, the World Cup, and the Premier League, but not the EFL Championship - which is Europe’s fifth richest division and the only route for clubs to access the wealthiest competition in the world. What other options do we have?

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Why the hell can’t we score from set pieces?

We never really look dangerous from dead-ball situations, whether it’s a corner or a free kick on the edge of the box. It’s perplexing, given that we’ve got such technically capable footballers across the forward areas of the pitch, that hitting the target or finding the heads of the big lads is such a struggle.

Sky showed a stat during the game that said we’re the only side in the Championship not to have scored from a set piece yet this season, and it really must be a stat that comes to an end soon. It’s certainly something for the gaffer to work on in training!

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

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