Premier League referee Michael Oliver has opened up about the Merseyside derby debacle and has admitted they made a mistake.
If there is one thing every football fan can agree about in this crazy season is that Jordan Pickford should have received a red card after that horrible tackle on van Dijk that ultimately led to him being out for most of, if not, the entire season.
Finally, almost three months later, we finally get confirmation from a referee that they in fact made a mistake and that the English goalkeeper should have been sent off after having an interview with Sportsmail.
Oliver explains that he had watched said incident over and over again previously and confirms that him, alongside the other officials, were so distracted by the tight offside decision that they allowed Pickford to go unpunished.
He then goes onto say the 3 reasons why they messed up the decision.
The Passage of Play
Fabinho plays the ball to the back post towards van Dijk.
It was a big game. Both teams were flying. The assistant has given offside and there is the delay in the flag, as we have had this season. Jordan then comes out to Virgil.Michael Oliver
Pickford takes out the Liverpool defender, but Oliver blows for offside after seeing the assistant referee’s flag.
Oliver continued: “The thought initially was, ‘It can’t be a penalty because it’s offside, so we need to check the offside first,”
I think I said to the VAR, ‘If it’s not offside, I’m going to give a penalty’.Michael Oliver speaking on the Derby incident involving Virgil van Dijk
“I have watched it back so many times. I genuinely don’t think Pickford has done anything apart from try to spread himself, but he did it the wrong way, as the injury has shown,” He added.
The man in charge of VAR on the day, David Coote, spent over a minute looking at the initial offside, as a result the challenge by Jordan Pickford wasn’t observed.
Oliver: ‘We have all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as we should have done. We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off.“
Arguments raised after the game were that the injury to Van Dijk changed the complexion of the fierce derby.
Shortly before the final whistle, Everton forward Richarlison was given his marching orders after a late challenge on Thiago Alcantara.
Michael Oliver, a FIFA referee since 2012, hinted that the officials on the day failed to reflect on the bigger picture, he said: “We got sucked too much into going step by step as opposed to thinking of the bigger process, which was considering the challenge as well and not just the fact it can’t be a penalty.”
“What I was surprised about looking at it afterwards was that nothing was expected on-field in terms of a red card. None of the players were asking for that,” he continued.
We should have restarted with the offside, as we did, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford.Michael Oliver on punishment for Pickford
Would it be a mistake to remove VAR?
Despite confirming mistakes were made, Oliver remains a big fan of VAR and thinks it would be a mistake to get rid of it.
“I know VAR has become an obsession, but I am for it.” says Oliver,
“There is all the clamour about it changing the game. But if you scrapped it tomorrow lunchtime, all you would hear all weekend would be people shouting, ‘that would be a pen with VAR’,”
Oliver also reaffirms that it’s the referee that has the final decision, not those of the Video Assistant Referee: “Ultimately, even with VAR, it’s still my decision. I’m the one who makes the decision on the field.
And if I get it right first time around, there is no reason for VAR to get involved. Now that I can go and watch on a pitchside monitor, you’ve got a second chance, too. You can change your mind or stick with it.”
Unlike popular belief, the 35-year-old believes that VAR has done the game more right than wrong: “I think VAR’s helped the game. You are getting more fair decisions. You are getting the acceptance of players.
If you go across to the monitor, there is more of an acceptance on-field because players are happy that at least two people have seen it. You have seen it live, someone else has seen pictures.”
We don’t expect referees to be right all the time, humans make mistakes, it’s normal, but the entire point behind VAR is so that these sorts of things don’t happen.LFCTR Writer José Díaz Navarro on VAR
My take on the entire situation is that referees should not wait until the players complain to hand out fouls or bookings.
From my point of view, every tackle and challenge that leaves the player in a clear state of pain should be looked at to give an appropriate booking.
Not necessarily minutes, like VAR usually takes, but quicker checks that can give a better answer.
The entire meaning behind VAR is to be able to correct clear mistakes and be able to do so fast enough, but it tends to take way longer than it probably should.
Another example of this is the game against Newcastle. There was a clear penalty on Sadio Mané by the Karl Darlow, but since he didn’t dive or complain, nothing was given.
This is something that needs to be fixed. It only promotes the need for diving since they’re basically saying, “If you don’t go to ground, you won’t get a foul”, even if it’s clear as day.
VAR is nowhere near perfect, but if it doesn’t begin to get better soon, then it should start being looked at and analysed by the higher-ups.
I personally don’t want to see it removed; however, it should just be bettered. Whether it is by changing the rules, how it works, or the referees themselves, I feel like it could be a real asset to the footballing game going forward if it’s done right.
By José Díaz Navarro (@cheduardo99)