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All's not fair in love and VAR: Liverpool-Tottenham controversy explained

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) took centre stage in the last matchweek of the English Premier League (EPL), for the wrong reasons once again, after a goal was wrongly disallowed in the Liverpool-Tottenham clash.

The VAR ruled out Liverpool’s opener after their winger Luis Diaz was ruled offside by match officials.

What happened during the match?

Tottenham snatched a controversial 2-1 win against nine-man Liverpool as Joel Matip’s last-gasp own-goal ended the Reds’ rock-solid resistance and the visitors had a goal disallowed that the referees’ body later admitted should have been allowed to stand.

Liverpool had Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota sent off as Ange Postecoglou’s side shattered Liverpool’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season and extended their own after the gripping climax in north London.

Jones was dismissed in the first half before Luis Diaz’s goal for Liverpool was incorrectly disallowed for offside by VAR.

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Referee Simon Hooper looks at the VAR monitor before giving Liverpool’s Curtis Jones a red card.

Credit: Reuters Photo

What did Liverpool say?

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was exasperated as his side lost to the North London club, which ended their unbeaten run in the Premier League, and pushing them to fourth spot, two below Spurs.

“The (Diaz) offside goal. That’s not offside when you see it. They drew their lines wrong,” said Klopp. “The ball’s between Mo’s (Salah’s) legs. They … didn’t judge the moment when Mo passed the ball right. It’s so tough to deal with it. We scored an own goal, that’s really tough to take… The first red card, Curtis steps on the ball and goes over. Not a bad tackle. It looks different in slow motion. He steps full throttle on the ball and goes over the ball. That’s unlucky”, the manager said.

“(Jota’s) first yellow was not a yellow. Then he gets a second and to defend with eight outfield players is tricky”, he added.

Despite the nature of the defeat, Klopp said he was proud of his team’s backs-to-the-wall performance which almost delivered a point in extraordinary circumstances against a high-flying Spurs side who are making a habit of snatching late home wins.

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk told the BBC: “The VAR should be absolutely clear and obvious with everything they’re deciding on. I’ve seen the still back, I think on live TV there were no lines being shown. It’s all a bit strange…

“If you look at the fight we showed, the defending we did, the togetherness – it was good to see. The manager has told us in the dressing room and for me as a captain it’s good to see everyone working so hard and fighting for each other. To concede an own goal in the last two minutes of the game is cruel.”

What has the referees’ body said?

The referees’ body, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) later issued a statement blaming “significant human error” for the Diaz goal being disallowed.

“This was a clear and obvious factual error and should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention,” the PGMOL added, saying that it would conduct a full review into the circumstances which led to the mistake.

Following the backlash, VAR officials Darren England and Dan Cook were replaced for two games this matchweek.

Klopp was not impressed with the apology, and when informed of it, told media outlets that it did not ‘help’ them. “Who does that help now? We had that situation in the Wolves-Man United game. Did Wolves get the points? No,” the Reds’ gaffer reflected.

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Liverpool’s Luis Diaz.

Credit: Reuters Photo

What is Liverpool demanding?

Liverpool released a statement on Sunday saying it was clear the rules of the game were not applied correctly, which undermined sporting integrity, adding that they would explore the options available for resolution.

The on-field referee from the Liverpool game, Simon Hooper, and the fourth official, Michael Oliver, have both been selected for weekend duties.

Liverpool, meanwhile, has formally requested the audio of the conversation between the officials from the PGMOL.

Will a rematch be possible?

It is unclear as to what exactly Liverpool’s demands are regarding a rematch. There is no law in the EPL for a match’s result to be changed or for it to be replayed due to a refereeing error.

This has only happened in one instance, back in 1999, when Arsenal replayed an FA Cup tie against Sheffield United, after the then Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger agreed to it after the Gunners won the match by scoring in controversial circumstances.

What has Tottenham said?

Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou said he is not a fan of video assistant referee (VAR) as the system complicates matters, after his team benefited from an error by the officials in Saturday’s clash.

“The game is littered with historical refereeing decisions that weren’t right, but we all accepted that it was part of the game because we’re dealing with human beings,” Postecoglou said.

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou.

Credit: Reuters Photo

“I think that people are under the misconception that VAR is going to be errorless. I don’t think there’s any technology because so much of our game isn’t factual. It’s down to interpretation, and they’re still human beings.

“When you put such a high bar on something, it invariably is going to fail, so if people are thinking that VAR is going to be something that at some point that is perfect, that’s never going to happen.”

The incident did not sit well with former legends of the game as well.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), former England and Liverpool centre-back Jamie Carragher said, “This season when an offside has been obvious they have tried to speed it up by getting the game going quickly again & not drew the lines. An awful mistake to not see the Spurs defender with the outstretched leg.”

In what came as a surpise for the Scousers however, was the comments made by Gary Neville, who played for Manchester United, who are seen as the Merseyside club’s arch-rivals.

“Goal-line Technology and Offside have been the two pillars of accuracy with VAR. I’ve lost some confidence in the last month on offsides and this today erodes it further. Bring in the automated system straight away,” the former England right-back said.

(With agency inputs)

(Published 04 October 2023, 06:42 IST)

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