Eight days prior to this game, VAR was the talk of Anfield when West Brom visited in the FA Cup. And after the game against Tottenham, referee decisions (or lack of) were again the focal point as Liverpool and Spurs took a point each after a controversial clash which saw Liverpool maintain their advantage over Spurs in the league table.
Referee Jon Moss and assistant Eddie Smart have needlessly grabbed the headlines, after some extremely contentious decisions left Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side fuming. Mo Salah scored twice at the start and end of the game, before the referee made himself the centre of attention.
The first decision, was to give a penalty against Loris Karius as Harry Kane found himself through on goal. Kane, who was a yard offside as the ball was played, saw the onrushing Karius and jumped over the Liverpool keeper, but left a leg trailing which initiated the contact, so he tumbled over and Moss fell for it and blew for the spot kick. Even after consulting with Smart who wasn’t sure if Lovren deliberately played the ball (he didn’t), Moss gave it anyway. Justice was done however as Karius guessed the direction of the penalty and parried it away.
And as Mo Salah put Liverpool ahead on the 91st minute, everyone in the stadium thought that was that. But nope. The officials had to put themselves back in the spotlight again. Erik Lamela retrieved the ball, from an offside position, which wasn’t spotted. He then turned, and Virgil Van Dijk pulled out of a challenge with Lamela, but the latter still went down in theatrical fashion to fool the linesman. Upon the replay, it’s seen that Lamela backed into Van Dijk and felt a slight touch from the Dutchman, so went over. Moss himself waved play on with only seconds remaining, but Eddie Smart was there again, flagging like a madman and convinced Moss to give the penalty, which Kane converted this time.
Tempers flared at the final whistle with half of Liverpool’s players surrounding the referee and his assistant, only to be pulled away by Jurgen Klopp. Can you really blame them for reacting in that way?
But what about the football itself?
It had started so well for Liverpool in the second minute, as Eric Dier inadvertently played Mo Salah clean through against Hugo Lloris, and the Egyptian wrongfooted the Frenchman to bag his 27th goal of the season and to send Anfield crazy. It was a great first half for Liverpool, who stifled Tottenham’s attack brilliantly. Dejan Lovren and Virgil Van Dijk performed to an exceptional level, keeping Harry Kane out the game for the majority of it in fairness. Van Dijk was massively unlucky to get the penalty decision against him, but he was colossus at the back again.
Virgil van Dijk 1st half vs Spurs
91% passing – best for Liverpool
2/2 aerial duels
Commanding ?? pic.twitter.com/8TWBkxvkag
— LFC Stats (@LFCData) February 4, 2018
Liverpool had chances to add to their lead, but the final ball just wasn’t there. Van Dijk had a header saved, and Mo Salah put just a bit too much weight on a through ball to Sadio Mane at the end of the first half. The Reds undoubtedly deserved the lead and it was on Spurs to bring something else in the second half.
And in the second half, it was all Spurs, without really testing Karius much in goal. He made a couple of saves, but nothing of note. However, they bossed the ball and limited Liverpool to playing on the counter attack. Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on to add something to midfield but were largely ineffective. And it took something truly special to bring Spurs level. Christian Eriksen crossed from the left which Karius punched clear. Emre Can couldn’t get a strong enough foot on it to help the ball clear, and it fell to Victor Wanyama who slammed the ball into the top corner from 30 yards, moments after coming on.
Spurs were the side who looked the more likely to get a winner, but with the penalty that was saved, it looked destined to finish 1-1. Step up the Egyptian King.
Salah picked the ball up on the right, beat 1, beat 2, beat 3, then lofted the ball over Lloris to send Anfield wild again. A truly special goal from one of, if not the best signing Liverpool has made in years. A goal good enough to win any game.
Carragher: "The only other player that can score that second Mohamed Salah goal is Lionel Messi."
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) February 4, 2018
That was until the referee and linesman made it about them. Again. And ruined the game. Again. How long will this continue for, until the FA acts on the shambolic performances of their officials week in, week out? They ruin far too many games, how can this continue?
The result in the end was probably a fair one. Liverpool had the best of the first half, and Spurs the best of the second. But in the manner it went down, it feels like a kick in the teeth to Liverpool. Liverpool maintain their 2 point advantage over Spurs in the league, with top four qualification firmly in their own hands. Southampton away next for the Reds next Sunday, who will look to get 3 points to put this game in the rear view mirror.