Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham in the round of 26 at Anfield came in controversial as two penalty calls given to Harry Kane and Erik Lamela in the final minutes of the match were contentious enough to remain a source of much debate. While the BBC and Sky sports have taken a different stance on the matter, it only gets more confusing but inquiring.
The recent ESPNFC twitter poll of “Was the Penalty Call on Virgil van Dijk Correct?” indicates that 58 percent of people deny the call of referee Jon Moss and lineman Eddie Smart. But, were both decisions incorrect? Or should both players be accused of simulation?
It must be frustrating for Liverpool’s fans as the second penalty in the 94th minute helped Kane deny Spurs of an imminent defeat when Reds had seemed to have earned crucial three points followed by Mohammed Salah’s stunner in the 91st minute.
However, it is important to look back at the decisions with a clear understanding of such rules in respect to the relevant incidents.
First penalty awarded to Kane in the 84th minute.
When Dele Allie finds Kane and forces a through-pass forward, Harry Kane is unquestionably in an offside position, but Liverpool’s defender Loveren deliberately and poorly interjected to clear off the ball past him, causing it to get deflected off to Kane. The moment of Croatian defender deliberately making a contact with the ball, the play enters a new phase and Kane’s offside position is no longer an issue; he is now onside.
According to the FIFA’s rulebook- Law 11: offside, it states that “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.” If Loveren, instead of making a deliberate attempt to play the ball, had faced to his goal and the ball hit him, letting Kane have a one-on-one meeting with Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, that would not have been considered a deliberate action and Kane would have been offside.
There is another element to this decision- whether Kane was tripped by Karius or simply dived. It is evident that there was a clear and obvious contact between Kane and Karius when Kane was trying to slalom past him and Karius rushing caught Kane’s foot. Therefore, it is a penalty and Moss was right in his decision.
Second Penalty awarded to Lamela in the 94th minute.
It was more of Lamela’s ability to instigate the foul play in the penalty area rather than the referees’ miscall. However, the different camera angles caught Van Dijk making a contact to the back of Lamela’s thigh. Many will argue that the contact was either slight or not convincing enough to cause Lamela to drop to the ground and that he dived. But, we cannot blame Boss and Smart for calling it penalty when there was definite contact.
Speaking of Video Assistant Referee, VAR would not have helped alleviate controversy over both situations as it only applies to a clear and obvious error.
Liverpool continue to remain in a competitive position on the table for the Champions League qualification spot while capturing a 2-0 winning decision against Southampton this week and are scheduled to face the teams from the bottom half of the table ahead of their next seven league fixtures.