Jurgen Klopp promised that Liverpool would respond Saturday against arch enemy Everton in its first Premier League game since suffering its worst loss in more than half a century two weeks ago. And shortly after Sadio Mané gave the defending champs an early lead in the first Merseyside derby of the 2020-21 campaign, it seemed that Klopp’s team would live up to its manager’s pledge.
Unfortunately for the Reds, the match officials, led by center referee Michael Oliver, were too formidable an opponent to overcome, as two blown calls by the video assistant denied Liverpool the victory they deserved in the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.
Other leagues seem able to use video review to get it right. In the Premier League, the system continues to make a mockery of the competition.
Because if VAR worked at all, it surely would have intervened after Liverpool’s defensive anchor, Virgil van Dijk, was forced from the match following a horrific challenge by Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford:
Yet Pickford somehow avoided a red card on the play, so instead of playing down a man for most of the match, Everton’s Michael Keane quickly equalized for the hosts. The score would remain deadlocked until Mohamed Salah’s great strike put the Reds ahead in the second half:
Prem scoring leader Dominic Calvert-Lewin pulled the hosts level again at 2-2, but Jordan Henderson appeared to have given the Reds all three points in stoppage time.
This time, VAR detected an alleged infraction so small it was literally impossible to see with the naked eye. The replays appeared inconclusive, but Mané was ruled offside anyway. It was a perplexing and infuriating decision unless you’re an Everton fan. If anything, it looked like Mané was just slightly on:
The two absurd calls kept Carlo Ancelotti’s side undefeated and three points ahead of Liverpool atop the Prem table, but it also tainted yet another match.
“I'm a big supporter of VAR, but you expect them to make the right decisions,” a stunned Klopp said afterward, per The Athletic. “Everyone has told me it's not offside. That doesn't lift my mood.”
Klopp’s mood won’t improve any if the two lost points impact the Reds’ title defense. A Liverpool win would’ve pulled them level with Everton. Only goal difference would’ve kept them from leapfrogging the Toffees into first place.
VAR is supposed to improve the product. In practice, it’s turning it into a farce. If the Prem can’t get it right in one of the most eagerly anticipated and highest-profile contests in the global game, the league ought to get rid of it altogether.
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