March 28, 2017

The benefit of using video referees during soccer games was highlighted Tuesday when Spain rightly profited from two decisions made away from the field of play to beat France 2-0 in an international friendly in Paris.

FIFA, the game's governing body, has been using video assistant referees on a trial basis since last year and this was the first time that the extra official was used in a soccer match in France.

It proved a success.

A 48th-minute goal by France forward Antoine Griezmann was disallowed - with the score at 0-0 - because of an offside earlier in the move. The decision followed consultation between the referee and the video assistant.

Video help was needed again in the 77th minute to overturn an incorrect offside call against substitute Gerard Deulofeu after the winger applied a close-range finish to make it 2-0. Deulofeu was made to wait to celebrate the goal, but at least the correct decision was reached.

Trials will continue through 2018, with competitions and countries needing to apply to be part of the trials. But a strong case has been made for the technology to be rolled out for good.

France was on the wrong end of the video-assisted decisions at the Stade de France, and was defeated for the first time since its 1-0 loss to Portugal in the same venue in the European Championship final last year.

David Silva - a second-half substitute like Deulofeu - scored Spain's other goal, converting a 68th-minute penalty for his 30th goal in 111 international appearances.

Here's a look at other friendlies played in Europe on Tuesday:



Cristiano Ronaldo had a bittersweet homecoming.

The Real Madrid star was playing for Portugal in his hometown of Funchal on the Madeira Islands for the first time, and marked the occasion by scoring the opener in the 18th minute to take his tally of international goals to 71. It tied him with former Germany striker Miroslav Klose in third place in the all-time list of European international scorers, behind Hungarian pair Ferenc Puskas (84) and Sandor Kocsis (75).

An own goal from Andreas Granqvist in the 34th put Portugal 2-0 ahead but Sweden staged a stirring second-half comeback, with Viktor Claesson scoring in the 57th and 76th minutes before Joan Cancelo's own goal won it for the visitors in the third and final minute of stoppage time.

Ronaldo was substituted in the 58th, when Portugal was leading 2-1.



Fred Grim's first and possibly only match in charge of the Dutch ended in another loss for a fallen giant of European soccer.

The Netherlands fired coach Danny Blind on Sunday, a day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria and with the nation struggling to qualify for next year's World Cup. The Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016, too.

Grim was placed in temporary charge but saw a 32nd-minute goal from Leonardo Bonucci seal victory for Italy.

The Netherlands took the lead in the 10th minute when a shot by Quincy Promes deflected off two Italy defenders into the net, with Alessio Romagnoli getting the final touch. Eder equalized a minute later.

Louis van Gaal, a potential new coach for the Netherlands, was in the stands for the match.



Russia has now won just two of its last 13 games but, ahead of hosting next year's World Cup, this was an encouraging result against one of Europe's top teams.

Russia came from 3-1 down in the 76th minute to salvage a draw, equalizing in the second minute of stoppage time through Alexander Bukharov.

Viktor Vasin gave the Russians an early lead before Kevin Mirallas replied and Christian Benteke scored twice for Belgium, which is No. 5 in the world rankings.

Alexei Miranchuk then started the late fightback in the first soccer match at the 47,700-seat Fisht stadium in Sochi, which hosted the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in 2014.



Croatia conceded inside the first minute and then two more goals late on in a surprise 3-0 loss at Estonia.

Austria was held 1-1 by Finland, Iceland won 1-0 at Ireland, and Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Albania 2-1 away.


Steve Douglas is at

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