The opening fixture of the 55th Bundesliga season witnessed a refereeing revolution which can already go down as a resounding success.
In Bayern Munich's 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used a total of 12 times – seven in the first half and five in the second half – lending the main match official Tobias Stieler an invaluable hand at the Allianz Arena.
Dr Jochen Drees oversaw the action with the help of several screens showing instant replays, and he was able to give Stieler an audible thumbs up on 11 occasions. The other intervention saw history in the making, as Stieler signalled that the VAR had - on his request - reviewed a foul by Charles Aranguiz on Robert Lewandowski inside the penalty area. An incident which would otherwise have gone unpunished was corrected to allow Bayern to open up a three-goal lead.
Technology enabled a mistake to be avoided and, in just 36 seconds, his decision was overturned. Fans inside the Allianz Arena waited excitedly as the decision was relayed to them by the referee's gestures, accompanied by messages on the giant screen.
Watch: Stieler discusses the VAR debut
"We're delighted that the collaboration between the referee on the pitch and the video assistant worked so well on this premiere," said German Football League (DFL) director Ansgar Schwenken. "That was also the case in how quickly the decision was taken in the dubious situation which led to the penalty. This first example of video evidence in the Bundesliga will certainly have helped contribute to the spectators at home and in the stadium understanding and accepting this new technology."
The German Football Association's (DFB) head of refereeing and VAR project leader Hellmut Krug added: "We're delighted with how things went in this opening match. The communication between the referee and the video assistant was flawless. We reached quick and precise decisions in the relevant incidents and our intense preparation work has paid off. Now we want to latch onto this positive start."
All eyes were on Stieler as he awaited instructions during those 36 seconds of dramatic suspense. He was a wanted man after the game, too, to explain exactly how the procedure had worked. "It was a perfect example of how the video assistant can help us referees," he said after officiating his 76th Bundesliga fixture. "I only caught a glimpse of the tug on Lewandowski out of the corner of my eye because it did not happen right in the centre of the action.
"I had a feeling that it was a foul, but I could not be 100 per cent certain and give a penalty. My video assistant quickly confirmed my impression after viewing replays. This situation was resolved quickly and correctly in collaboration with my video assistant, and everybody accepted the final decision."
Five-hundred-and-seventy-five kilometres away in Cologne, Drees was equally happy with his first assignment in a studio rather than on the field. "The work in the video assist centre in Cologne was very professional," he said. "Both [television] operators quickly showed me the different camera perspectives and, in the 52nd minute, we were able to identify how the Bayern forward had been hauled down against the laws of the game by his opponent, so I advised Tobias Stieler to award a penalty."
In addition to the penalty decision, Drees also checked whether each of the four goals were valid, while he also considered a foul by Karim Bellarabi on Sebastian Rudy in the 12th minute, a foul by Lewandowski on Sven Bender in the 26th minute, and another intervention by Bellarabi on Joshua Kimmich in the 68th minute, concluding that in each instance, Stieler had got his decision spot on.
Watch: How VAR works
The VAR will be implemented in all 306 Bundesliga matches this season in an attempt to eradicate major mistakes and ensure more fairness in the game. The VAR can be called upon in one of four situations: goals, incidents inside the penalty area, red card decisions and mistaken identity.
The VARs sit in the so-called video assist centre in Cologne, where they have access to all camera angles available for each match. They are in constant direct link with the referee of each match in a pioneering project by the DFL and DFB.