DISCLAIMER: I am writing this article as a massive Liverpool fan, but I have tried to remove as much bias as possible. Honest.
So, where to begin?
After a pulsating draw at Anfield on Sunday afternoon between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, all we are hearing about is the team of officials. Yet again.
In a crazy final 15 minutes at Anfield we saw 3 goals (2 of them worldies), and 2 controversial penalty decisions that were both awarded in the favour of Spurs.
Liverpool grabbed the lead of the match after 3 minutes thanks to an awful pass by Eric Dier putting Mohamed Salah clean through on goal. He was never going to miss.
It was a lead Liverpool held on to until the 80th minute when Victor Wanyama produced one of the strikes of the season, lashing onto a punch from Liverpool keeper Loris Karius, arrowing the ball brilliantly into the top corner of the net. It was all set up to be a dramatic final finale.
And so it proved to be with Spurs winning a penalty a few minutes later.
Now, everyone has their own take on these incidents so all I can do is convey mine.
Harry Kane is slipped through on goal onto his left foot. He takes a touch away from goal as Karius comes diving across. Kane goes down and a penalty is awarded. Wrongly.
There have been arguments debating whether Kane was offside during this piece of play. The facts are he was definitely standing in an offside position. If he was offside it’s not a penalty. True enough. But Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren makes an attempt to play the ball, missing it thanks to a deflection. This in my opinion deems Kane to be onside.
However, I firmly believe the in form England striker dived. He jumped over the arms of Karius falling to the gound in the process. There is absolutely no need for him to do so, except to win a penalty.
The decision was academic though, as Kane hit a poor penalty straight at Karius.
But, the referee wanted to confer with his linesman about the call. Something which becomes increasingly relevant later on in the game.
Football is cruel. In the 91st minute Mo Salah sent the entire Spurs defence for a pint of milk, slotting the ball superbly past Hugo Lloris to score what everyone thought was the match winning goal. And it should have been.
However, another few minutes later, Tottenham were awarded a second penalty. And in my opinion there can be absolutely no debate about this one.
Erik Lamela and Virgil Van Dijk are the players involved. The ball is there to be won. Defender Van Dijk looks to clear the ball out of harm’s way. However, Lamela comes sideways onto the ball. Van Dijk notices this and pulls his foot away at the last second, allowing his knee to be raised. Lamela either instinctively spots this or was just always looking to dive. The Argentine winger theatrically jumps across the path of Van Dijk, blocking the Dutchman from the ball and making it look like it was a foul. It was an expert con.
It gets worse though. Referee Jon Moss – who probably won’t be going on a night out in Liverpool any time soon – decides to wave play on. Correctly.
But the linesman wants to get involved again. He thinks it was a foul. So the referee stops play and goes over to confer with him, again! The penalty is subsequently given.
With the pressure well and truly on, Harry Kane tucked it away – scoring his 100th Premier League goal. Quite some achievement.
After the game, Kane cheekily says to the Sky Sports camera tracking him, “You can’t give me two tries.”
Who is he speaking to here? Liverpool? Who didn’t actually give him anything, and kept him quiet all game?
I can only presume he is speaking to the officials. After all, they gifted both “tries” to him.
And now let’s get onto the sore subject of VAR. I have seen a lot of negativity on social media about the technology. That game is hard evidence as to why it is needed.
Liverpool were robbed of 2 points, and we are yet to see how crucial that could turn out to be.
Some of the arguments against VAR range from “without it we have more talking points” to “it takes too long to make a decision”.
May I ask you, at what point was either penalty yesterday awarded in a quick manner?
And if you want talking points, go and watch Big Brother.
It is obviously going to take time to perfect the system, and I’m not saying it would be perfect. But with a proper video analysis – particularly of that final penalty – I believe I would not need to be writing this article.
I was at the Olympic Stadium as VAR awarded a subsequently missed penalty to Roma, and ruled their last minute goal as legal. And let me tell you, the fans weren’t annoyed that the decision took some time. They were over the moon. On the way back home, there were scenes of jubilation on the Roman streets, with the likes of bikers honking their horns and fist pumping with the Giallorossi faithful.
Let’s also look at the Super Bowl which also took place last night. Not that you could forget. Granted it is a different sport with different rules but 2 of the touchdowns scored by the Philadelphia Eagles were reviewed by video technology. There was no uprising of fume from Patriots fans as they were given, apart from when their main man Tom Brady lost possession in the final quarter. Nothing to do with the technology.
Arsene Wenger has said it. The standard of refereeing in England is not good enough. And I can’t help but agree. Think what you want about him but the man has been here for longer than I’ve been born. Furthermore, he has sampled the standards abroad. He created an invincible team. The man knows what he’s talking about.
VAR needs to be introduced, and quickly. Otherwise I am going to have to keep chewing on these sour grapes.
They don’t taste good.