Integrity of Premier League in question after yet another VAR failure

Liverpool's Darwin Nunez leaves the field at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in London, England, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. Tottenham won 2-1. (Alberto Pezzali/AP)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — VAR was supposed to put an end to all of this.

The fallout from Luis Diaz’s wrongly-disallowed goal in Liverpool’s 2-1 loss at Tottenham on Saturday resulted in the Merseyside club issuing a statement, saying it would “explore the range of options available given the clear need for escalation and resolution.”

It is not clear what those “options” are and The Associated Press has contacted Liverpool and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the referees’ governing body, for clarification.

But the tone of Liverpool’s statement on Sunday revealed the club’s frustration after Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Darren England failed to award Diaz’s goal, despite replays clearly showing the forward was onside.

The PGMOL later acknowledged the mistake was a case of “significant human error” and England and his assistant Dan Cook were stood down from further duty over the weekend.

Diaz’s goal would have put Liverpool 1-0 up against Tottenham and a win would have seen Jurgen Klopp’s team move to the top of the standings, above defending champions Manchester City.

“It is clear that the correct application of the laws of the game did not occur, resulting in sporting integrity being undermined,” Liverpool said. “We fully accept the pressures that match officials work under but these pressures are supposed to be alleviated, not exacerbated, by the existence and implementation of VAR.”

Saturday’s error appears to have been one of concentration and communication.

The mistake was reportedly the result of the VAR believing Diaz’s goal had been given. Upon review the verdict was to say the check was complete, meaning it was correct for the goal to stand.

But as the original on-field decision was to adjudge Diaz offside, the response of “check complete” appeared to confirm the offside decision was correct.

VAR was introduced to the Premier League at the start of the 2019-20 season after a long-standing debate over the use of video replays.

But while the technology allows officials to review incidents frame by frame on a TV monitor, the potential for human error still remains.

Last season VAR failed to rule out an Ivan Toney goal against Arsenal, which earned Brentford a 1-1 draw and cost the Gunners the chance to go seven points clear at the top.

“It wasn’t human error, it was not understanding your job,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said at the time and his team ended the season five points behind Man City in second place.

Earlier this season Wolverhampton was denied a clear penalty against Manchester United when Andre Onana crashed into Sasa Kalajdzic in stoppage time at Old Trafford.

Wolverhampton manager Gary O’Neil said he received an apology from the PGMOL.

Apologies, however, do not make up for costly errors.

“We will not get points for it so it doesn’t help,” Klopp said Saturday. “Nobody expects 100 per cent right decisions on-field, but we all thought when VAR comes in that it might make things easier.”

The PGMOL said it would conduct a full review into the incident.

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