It was nice to see Diego Simeone bucking that trend

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TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT

The punditry career of Robbie Savage. The reboot of Magnum PI. The Independent Group extemporising philosophically on roundtable debate shows. There’s enough unnecessary, inexplicable, depressing nonsense on television to be dealing with these days without getting worked up about VAR. So hats off to Pep Guardiola for shrugging his shoulders last night and declaring himself “a big fan” of the much-maligned, pernickety officiating system which has only tarnished three Big Cup knockout matches and one World Cup final so far. “I trust VAR!” he trilled with the magnanimity one can only afford when your team has dodged a bullet and it might be best to keep your powder dry so you can properly kick off when the video ref awards Real Madrid a preposterous last-minute penalty in the next round.

Last night, Manchester City were struggling to find a new way to capitulate in European competition. They had been leading at Schalke and bossing the game, so VAR gave them a little nudge in the right direction, penalising Nicolás Otamendi for a clear and obvious subjective transgression, then Fernandinho for an unequivocal something or other that you could interpret any number of ways.

Fortunately for City, the genius of Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling turned it around for them at the death, allowing Pep to give the oft-criticised hair-splitting regulatory process his blessing. “I have arguments sometimes but not this time, they are both penalties,” he chirped, with the studied generosity of a man who is keeping his counsel so he can lose the place completely when VAR disallows City’s injury-time equaliser against Real Madrid for a marginal and not totally obvious offside toenail.

Everyone’s favourite pedantic remote officiating tool also stuck its neb into the Atléti-Juve tie. Álvaro Morata had a goal ruled out for winning a physical duel with Giorgio Chiellini, a push so brazenly egregious it took a couple of minutes for everyone to decide it might be a foul, probably, sort of. Fortunately for Atlético, José María Giménez scored one that actually stood not long after, even if everyone still had to pause for a few seconds to check it was going to get a tick from teacher. As fans of cricket, rugby and NFL will attest, this sort of nonsense usually ruins the spontaneous joy of celebration, so it was nice to see Diego Simeone bucking that trend. He refused to wait for permission, instead reacting in the moment and immediately turning towards the stand, cupping his trouser arrangement in delight. “I did it to show our fans that we have cojones,” he later explained, of the only action last night that really was worth watching over and again.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Scott Murray from 5.55pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Arsenal 2-1 BATE (2-2 agg), while Paul Doyle will be on hand for Valencia 4-0 Celtic (6-0 agg) and Nick Ames from 8pm for Chelsea 3-1 Malmö (5-2 agg).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I’ve won five [Big Cups] and these guys zero!” – Him, a grown-up, storms past Madrid hacks in the post-match mixed zone after Juventus’s Big Cup defeat to Atlético with steam billowing out of his lug-holes.

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Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Photograph: Reuters

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FIVER LETTERS

“RE: Brendan Mackinney (and presumably 1,056 others from 1980s Nottinghamshire) - thanks for helping me win my bet with a coworker, who insisted Forest fans would bring up the [Big Cup] win” – Sean Mansfield.

“On the subject of taking people to football, many years ago I took my mum to see Brighton at the Goldstone. About 10 minutes into the second half she piped up, with her cut glass accent echoing around the North Stand, “Jonathan, they’re going the other way now!”. To be fair, it wasn’t always obvious in those days which direction Brighton were going - down, being the obvious answer” – Jonathan Foulkes.

“Liverpool and their studio cheerleaders are always banging on about Anfield being the noisiest, most passionate crowd in the business. So why was it that the Bayern end was making all the noise, right through the match. While I am at it, the Schalke crowd was fantastic from start to the final whistle, despite their collapse to Manchester City. Far more noise, more variety, better drum beats and more …support. Old Trafford has no idea how to make a Big Noise either, and where in London is it as loud and consistent?” – Peter Hehir.

“Many years ago when Portsmouth were in the big league my Pompey loving boyfriend took me, a lifelong Saints fan to the ever fragrant Fratton ground. They duly beat Bolton 2-0 and I escaped with my life. We are married now but never speak of this. On a slightly different point I avoid the waste of £50 a pop to watch millionaires faffing about and attend non league games at roughly a Fiver a go, and have a hell of a time. Plus, people bring their dogs! This week Sheffield Town at the Coach and Horses arena (cap 250). Magic” – Tom Simpson.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is Jonathan Foulkes, who wins The Manager, by Big Website’s very own Barney Ronay. Plenty more prizes to come.

BITS AND BOBS

Millwall have been charged by the FA after clips emerged of some fans appearing to sing racist songs during their FA Cup game against Everton.

A Manchester City fan is in critical condition in hospital after an alleged assault following their win over Schalke on Wednesday.

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke was resolutely unchuffed after being on the receiving end of sectarian abuse during his side’s 5-0 defeat to Rangers. “They are not allowed to call my assistant [Alex Dyer] a black b but they can call me a Fenian bastard. What are we doing in Scotland?” he asked, not unreasonably.

Jürgen Klopp has been fined £45,000 by the FA after accepting a charge of mouthing off about a referee, following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with West Ham earlier this month.

And if you’ve made it that far through today’s depressing football news, here’s something to cheer you up.

STILL WANT MORE?

Christian Atsu talks miracles and Papa Benítez, in this interview with Louise Taylor.

Mood.
Mood. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

Narrative spanked a brilliant free-kick into the top corner last night. Or, if you prefer, Leroy Sané, writes Nick Ames.

VAR! What is it good for? Spicing up the drama, says Jamie Jackson.

Eni Aluko on what it means to play for Juventus and how standards are rising in Serie A, despite a salary cap.

USA! USA!! USA!!! coach Jill Ellis won the World Cup, but is still somehow paid less than the men’s under-20 manager. Not acceptable, writes Caitlin Murray.

If you’ve reached a certain age and are wondering where your youth went and what you’ve achieved with your life, don’t read Martin Laurence’s round-up of the best young talents in Europe.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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