Another Premier League weekend, another decision that has gone against us.
I really thought Anthony Taylor did OK in our match with Brighton on Sunday, but the game ended with more questions on the officials.
The first point of discussion was Virgil Van Dijk’s handball appeal, but it is not a penalty. This is impossible. The ball has bounced off his foot and landed on his hand, so there is no debate there. Then we come to the circumstances surrounding Liverpool’s penalty and the fact that Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross was not carded for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
This incident reminded me of an incident I was involved in as a Tranmere Rovers player during the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa. Goalkeeper Mark Bosnich brought me down inside the penalty area and according to the rules of the game he should have been sent off. I scored a penalty to make the score 1–1 in the game, but we lost on penalties after three spot-kick saves by Bosnich.
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I personally had no complaints because I got a penalty and I never like to see people go out, but rules are rules. So how Gross didn’t even get a yellow for bringing down Dominik Szoboszlai is beyond me. Craig Pawson on VAR would have to tell the ref to go and have a look, it’s that simple.
We didn’t deserve to win the game on aggregate, and the draw was probably fair, but we’re constantly being hurt by poor decisions being made by others. We’ve had McAllister’s red card against Bournemouth, Van Dijk’s dismissal at Newcastle, the complete waste of the Tottenham game and now this. At the end of the game, we’re always talking about the referee, the VAR – and we shouldn’t be doing that. The referee must take his time to reach the correct decision. You look at the red card of Curtis Jones, he certainly took his time on that one.
To make matters worse we saw Manchester City midfielder Mateo Kovacic somehow escape two consecutive red cards against Arsenal on Sunday night. It was incredible, incredible. This was even more evident than the Brighton incident in which we were on the wrong end. Kovacic should have received two yellow cards, one right on the border with a red card, and he escaped it. The first tackle shouldn’t even go as far as VAR, it was a clear send off. It was shocking but not surprising.
If I was working as a manager with VAR in a game I would be sacked most weeks. I have been sent out as a manager many times because I am passionate about the game. I will say that Howard Webb returning to England to become Chief Refereeing Officer has not solved all the wrong calls that happen on a weekly basis. Is he the right person for the job? If I were managing him, I would tell him he had until the end of the season to remove it, otherwise he would be fired. Absolutely. He is above all executives and if a manager has a bad team, they lose their job. This shouldn’t be any different for him. If he can’t solve it, he has to go.