Liverpool were denied potential two points in their 1-1 draw against Arsenal last month after their appeal for a penalty after the ball hit the arm of Martin Odegaard inside the area was turned down.
Referee Chris Kavanagh refused to award a spot kick and while the VAR agreed with the decision at the time, the technical director of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) Howard Webb has admitted that the officials made a mistake and should have awarded the penalty.
“The on-field referee recognised Odegaard had slipped and saw his arm go towards the ground,” Webb said on Sky Sports.
“We have talked in the past about supporting arms if someone falls or breaks their fall with their arm, it is a pretty well-established concept.
“In this situation, though, there is an important difference to a normal player that has fallen. This is not just Odegaard accidentally falling onto the ball, his arm does go out but then he pulls his arm back in towards his body which is when the ball makes contact with his arm.
“The VAR looked at that aspect. He thought it was a case of Odegaard trying to make himself smaller by bringing his arm back to his body. That is the element that is important here. Whether it is instinctive or deliberate, he gets a huge advantage by bringing the arm back towards the ball.
“The feedback we got back afterwards was very clear, the game expects a penalty in this situation and I would agree. As such, this one did not reach the right outcome on that basis.”
VAR and the general officiating this term have been below par, and Liverpool have been at the receiving end of some questionable refereeing.
A communication breakdown cost the Merseysiders against Tottenham Hotspur back in September as Luis Diaz had a goal wrongly chalked off.
PGMOL later admitted in October that VAR officials Darren England and Dan Cook had failed to act after the Brazilian’s 34th-minute strike was wrongly ruled out for offside, with Webb later apologising to Liverpool after the match.
However, it did not rule out the fact that the Reds lost 2-1, and their admission that Arsenal should have been penalised after their captain clearly handled the ball changes nothing.
Liverpool remain top of the Premier League table after 20 games, two points ahead of Manchester City, but it could have been a five-point lead for them had VAR and the officials done the right thing.
Manager Jurgen Klopp and the fans will hope those lost points do not end up proving costly at the end of the campaign, but more importantly, the officiating needs to get significantly better in the coming games as every wrong decision has the potential to hurt Liverpool’s dreams.
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