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Video nasty: Liverpool and West Brom confused by VAR chaos

  • VAR caused havoc during Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round clash with West Brom
  • Fans in the ground didn't have a clue what was going on with the video referee
  • Players were hounding officials and shamelessly appealing for TV replays 
  • Match officials can coast through games knowing the VAR will bail them out

By Jack Gaughan for the Daily Mail

Published: 17:31 EST, 28 January 2018 | Updated: 20:10 EST, 28 January 2018

The confusion was so overwhelming, with fans jeering and wondering what on earth was going on, that it all became too much for the poor sap controlling Anfield’s scoreboard.

Craig Dawson appeared to have headed West Bromwich 3-1 in front in the 20th minute.

Referee Craig Pawson went to the video referee for the first time to check the goal’s legality, taking a breath with hand to earpiece as Andre Marriner pored over the evidence in a London studio. 

VAR caused havoc during Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round clash with West Brom on Saturday
VAR caused havoc during Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round clash with West Brom on Saturday

VAR caused havoc during Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round clash with West Brom on Saturday

Craig Dawson heads in for Albion but Gareth Barry (18) is offside and the goal doesn't stand
Craig Dawson heads in for Albion but Gareth Barry (18) is offside and the goal doesn't stand

Craig Dawson heads in for Albion but Gareth Barry (18) is offside and the goal doesn't stand

Jake Livermore (8) pulls back Mohamed Salah, who goes to ground, and a penalty is  awarded
Jake Livermore (8) pulls back Mohamed Salah, who goes to ground, and a penalty is  awarded

Jake Livermore (8) pulls back Mohamed Salah, who goes to ground, and a penalty is awarded

Two minutes elapsed before the goal was correctly ruled out and, in the meantime, up flashed Liverpool 2 West Brom 2 on the electronic screens.

Fittingly, this added to the sense of bewilderment in a crowd reduced to watching a pantomime blindfolded.

Nobody knows quite what is happening with the video ref and the change feels rushed.

That fans are not informed of procedure is plain wrong, detaching them from a game they have always been so engaged with. Players are appealing for TV replays by aggressively crowding officials. And referees can coast through matches in the knowledge that video will bail them out. 

West Brom players were livid with referee Craig Pawson after he awarded the Reds a penalty
West Brom players were livid with referee Craig Pawson after he awarded the Reds a penalty

West Brom players were livid with referee Craig Pawson after he awarded the Reds a penalty

The official used VAR to spot Livermore's pull on Salah in the box and award the spot-kick
The official used VAR to spot Livermore's pull on Salah in the box and award the spot-kick

The official used VAR to spot Livermore's pull on Salah in the box and award the spot-kick

Pawson ‘went upstairs’ when six West Brom attackers were offside before disallowing a goal, illustrating just one flaw in the system. What must his assistant have thought?

It was ridiculously over- cautious and arguments ensued nevertheless. West Brom were incensed by a first-half penalty award when Jake Livermore tugged Mo Salah. It took four minutes to give the spot kick.

‘A strange, strange decision for us in the end,’ said Dawson. Two-goal Jay Rodriguez’s summation was: ‘Surreal.’

Salah’s gesticulating towards the touchline screen is a definite worry, as was Pawson checking the footage himself in front of a baying home crowd. Conversely, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp felt Ahmed Hegazi’s reckless lunge at Roberto Firmino, studs sunk into his ankle, needed a review.

Pawson disallowed a third West Brom goal after a discussion with the video assistant referee
Pawson disallowed a third West Brom goal after a discussion with the video assistant referee

Pawson disallowed a third West Brom goal after a discussion with the video assistant referee

‘If you see the tackle on television it’s just horrible,’ said the Liverpool manager. ‘If the video referee is not responsible for something like that, we should think over the rules.’ 

There are well-reasoned cases put forward for the video ref and it should enhance the game once issues are ironed out.

We will only know in time whether the long waits for a verdict do contribute to muscle injuries — as Alan Pardew moaned after losing players to hamstring problems.

All this should not detract from Albion’s fine victory, masterminded by Grzegorz Krychowiak and Rodriguez. 

Hal Robson-Kanu questions the match official after he disallowed Dawson's goal at Anfield
Hal Robson-Kanu questions the match official after he disallowed Dawson's goal at Anfield

Hal Robson-Kanu questions the match official after he disallowed Dawson's goal at Anfield

Rodriguez’s brace made it five goals in his last six games and TV pundit Steven Gerrard led the calls for Gareth Southgate to include him in the next England squad. ‘I’m really chuffed about that, he’s a legend,’ said Rodriguez. ‘You’d be lying if you were a player and you said weren’t looking at a World Cup.’

As for Liverpool, two defeats have followed the fine defeat of Manchester City and their abject defending continues.

‘Nothing in training gave me a sign that the boys misjudged the success against Man City,’ said Klopp. ‘Now we have the feeling something is wrong. That could cost confidence but we have to show it’s not like this.’

GRAHAM POLL - LET'S NOT FORGET VIDEO REF WAS RIGHT

All the decisions made by video referee Andre Marriner were correct. Yes, there were delays, but with such an important new system that is to be expected. 

The decisions

Craig Dawson’s goal was correctly ruled out because Gareth Barry was offside. Then Mo Salah was pulled back by Jake Livermore for a penalty. 

The replays were clear but, between them, referee Craig Pawson and Marriner took too long to reach the correct decision.

West Brom’s third goal — a Joel Matip own goal — also rightly stood because there was no offside.

The system

Reaching the right decisions took too long, particularly for the penalty. However, the key is getting the decisions right and I’m sure the officials will learn and improve as more games use the technology.

The biggest issue remains one of communication.

Fans in the stadium pay good money to see the action and for them to be left in the dark is unacceptable. 

The reactions

West Brom MUST be charged for failing to control their players over their reaction to Liverpool’s penalty. 

Alan Pardew suggested the delays may have caused hamstring injuries to two of his players. That is not the system’s fault. Pardew should have told his players to keep moving while decisions were being reached. 

Conclusion

If the video ref puts a stop to the kind of sneaky fouls that led to the penalty, surely that is a positive? 

We all need to show patience while everyone gets used to the system. Communication will improve, as will the time it takes to get the right decisions. 

CHRIS SUTTON - SCRAP IT NOW, IT KILLS EMOTION FOR THE FANS

This was a worrying glimpse into a future when football has implemented video referees full-time.

People go to games for the moments which make you jump out of your seat, the sheer elation when your team scores a goal. When the goals were scored on Saturday night, confusion reigned.

None of the fans knew what the outcome would be once the video referee got involved.

It is not very often that teams go 3-1 up at Anfield but, after Joel Matip put through his own goal, West Brom fans were left hanging for almost two minutes as the video referee checked the replays.

Imagine if we’d had this technology when Sergio Aguero clinched the title for Manchester City in the dying seconds against QPR. It would have removed all the joy and excitement from what will forever be one of the Premier League’s most iconic moments.

Unlike rugby union and cricket, football does not have natural breaks when decisions can be reviewed.

This was a fast-paced FA Cup tie but the video referee disrupted the rhythm. I have sympathy for the on-field ref and it is unfair to blame Craig Pawson for the stoppages.

If you are going to have technology, then use it properly. More trials will reduce the length of delays. Screens can show replays to improve communication with fans.

I have no issue with the unobtrusive goalline technology and I can see how video can be beneficial for black-and-white decisions such as offsides, but the negatives far outweigh the positives with the full video system.

Nothing can prevent the video referee from killing that moment of spontaneous emotion when your team score. Ultimately, that is the reason we love football. We would be better off scrapping the video referee all together.

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