The Var revolution in football suffered one of its biggest setbacks when the game’s authorities were forced to admit to a “significant human error” in disallowing a legitimate Liverpool goal for offside during an incident-packed 2-1 win for Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool finished the game with nine men and lost with seconds to play when Joel Matip scored an own goal, yet it was the disallowed goal scored by Luis Diaz after 34 minutes that was the game’s biggest controversy.
It was flagged offside by the on-field assistant but replays seemed to suggest that Diaz was onside when Mohamed Salah played the ball through. The absence of any freeze-frame with the lines drawn to show the decision further raised suspicion and Jurgen Klopp would later say that he was told at half-time that a mistake had been made.
The Liverpool manager was only just arriving at his post-match press conference when PGMOL, the body that runs referees for the Premier League, Football League and Football Association, finally admitted the scope of the mistake.
PGMOL said it had to “acknowledge a significant human error” in the first half. With the goal having been disallowed by the on-field team, PGMOL said “this was a clear and obvious factual error and should have resulted in the goal being awarded through Var intervention, however, the Var failed to intervene.”
PGMOL said there would be an investigation. Nevertheless, chief refereeing officer Howard Webb will recognise that the damage done to the trust in the offside decision system will be profound. The Var in question was referee Darren England although it was not clear whether he was responsible for the offside decision being made incorrectly. England was the on-field referee who failed to overturn a penalty awarded to Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins against Crystal Palace even when he had been told by his Var to review it.
Klopp said he was told at half-time the decision was wrong. “In the first moment I thought it was clearly onside, but you think they have a better view. At half-time we knew. It’s normal … the pictures are easy to see. I am pretty sure whoever made the decision didn’t do it on purpose. It didn’t take extremely long to come to the conclusion [that it was offside]. That’s a bit strange but someone else has to explain. I have nothing else to say.”
He added: “In the good old times, the linesman should have seen it was not offside because we had these situations quite frequently. And when you see it back it is pretty clear. But again nobody did it on purpose. Whatever I say here creates headlines but doesn’t help the situation at all.”
On the PGMOL’s statement, he said: “We had that situation in the Manchester United game [against Wolves when a penalty was not awarded against Andre Onana] – did Wolves get points for it? We will not get points for it so it doesn’t help. No-one expects 100 per cent right decisions on field but we all thought when Var comes in, it might make things easier. I don’t know why? Are they that much under pressure? The decision was made really quick for that goal. It changed the momentum of the game.”
Klopp had seen Curtis Jones sent off for a red card on 25 minutes, which the Liverpool manager would say was not a red card foul. He also queried the first booking of two for half-time substitute Diogo Jota.
On Jones’ dismissal, Klopp said: “Full power on the ball, rolls over the ball and then hits the decisive part of the leg. When you see it in slow motion it looks horrendous. When you see it in real time it’s not even close to being that bad. It’s a red card? It’s not even close to being on purpose. For me it’s really important that no-one thinks we have so many red cards [this season] that we are a kicking team.”