Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Whose line is it anyway?


So after the weekend's football matches, one couldn't help but get sucked into the controversy that stole the headlines in the battle for 4th spot game between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspurs. The game was a much hyped one with Spurs coming off a great win against second spot Manchester United and while Liverpool did suffer a glitch in two fixtures before this one, losing to Swansea in the league and getting knocked out of the FA Cup by Westbrom, they still were held in high esteem for being the only team to defeat log leaders Manchester City this season. So with all this in mind, we were sure to be in for a cracker at Anfield on Sunday night. 


The deadlock was broken within 3 minutes with Egyptian maestro Mohammed Salah punishing an error by Spurs defence and slotting the ball home for his 20th league goal of the season, making him the fastest player to do so for Liverpool. With the home side gaining such an early advantage, you would have expected them to go on and dominate and maybe get another goal in the process but to Spurs credit, they didn't let that lapse in concentration ruin their game plan and kept things tidy and the score line at just 1-0 come half time. 


In the second half, Spurs were the dominant team, keeping most of the possession and the team that looked most likely to score, it took them a while but substitute Victor Wanyama rifled home a poor clearance from Liverpool's keeper to level proceedings. It was then that things took a turn for the game and which sparked much talking points after the final whistle, Tottenham were on the ascendancy and looking for a winner, a through ball played through the Liverpool defence, found its way to Harry Kane who was in a clear offside position and went on to get impeded by Karius and resulted in referee Jon Moss pointing to the spot. Eddie Smart, the linesman did not raise his flag but opted to chat to Moss, asking him if Lovren, the Liverpool player closest to the ball had touched it on its way through. 


Now I know there is new rules when it comes to the offside ruling but surely logic has to prevail here. If a player is offside at the time of the pass, and it nicked an opposition player on the way through, it should still be offside. If Lovren took the ball and played a back pass to Karius, then by all means, it's a pen. This means that a team can have a player sitting constantly offside, and his team mate just has to kick the ball against an opposing defender and hopes his partner can get the ricochet? Madness I tell you. If Eddie Smart was really smart, he should have raised his flag before Kane could get the ball. The conversation that the two referees had was an even bigger joke, with Moss admitting to not know anything but still awarded the penalty. How can you award something you don't know about? 


Karius went on to save the penalty and kept things at 1-1, not too long after that, Mohammed Salah netted his 21st league goal of the season that can only be described as magical. That goal came in the 91st minute and should have been the winning goal, it would have got the headlines it deserved as it was something that not many can do, weaving through the Spurs defence like they were not there and poked it over the Spurs keeper. Some even said only Messi could do something like that, and I won't doubt them. 


Alas, it was not to be the headline moment of the match, on a final attack to salvage something from the game, Liverpool's star defender and most expensive one in the world, was flagged by Eddie Smart for adjudging him to tackle Spurs, Lemela, who in any case was offside, without the ball in the box, this after Jon Moss who was there, waved it away. Was there contact? Yes. Was it enough to warrant a penalty? Not in a million years, especially if you take into context the type of challenges that Spurs were making in the first half where Jon Moss waved play on. Erik Lamela went looking for a penalty and thanks to Eddie Smart, he got one. Kane stepped up and slotted in his 100th league goal for Spurs and the points were shared. Furious, Klopp didn't hide his feelings as did most of the team after the final whistle blew. 


With the recent FA Cup tie against Westbrom shrouded in controversy over the use of VAR, which ultimately cost Westbrom in a number of decisions going against them, I still feel it is useful in occasions such as this. As a football fan, I do agree it kills the tempo to the game but in crucial games like this, where every point matters, decisions like these need to be vindicated. I hear fans of the oppositions saying things like "these mistakes balance out at the end" or "leave it as it is, because it gives us talking points", that is utter bullshit, if it was your team affected, you would have been just as upset. Ref's are human, but they have a job to do, if you don't do your job properly, their should be consequences for the error. It leaves the the clubs from 2nd to 6th in a tricky situation with not much points separating them, it will ensure that things go down to the wire for those Champions League qualification spots come May. 


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