Politics

Jurgen Klopp’s ‘future’ prediction failed to come true and Liverpool have learned the hard way


Viewed as the solution to endless controversial calls in Premier League matches, it’s safe to say that the introduction of VAR has only added to the drama surrounding top-flight fixtures.

Since being implemented ahead of 2019/20 season in the English top-flight, there have been countless occasions whereby the technology has been the main talking point of a match for all the wrong reasons.

Liverpool have been involved in their fair share of controversial incidents involving VAR, namely last season as the Reds found themselves on the receiving end of some highly questionable offside and penalty decisions.

Although VAR was only brought in to the top-flight two seasons ago, it was first tested in England in 2018 to measure its effectives prior to a full roll-out.

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An FA Cup fixture between Brighton and Crystal Palace on January 8, 2018 was the first official match the system was trialled in.

Liverpool didn’t have to wait long to get their first VAR experience, which set the tone for how unsettling the technology would ultimately prove to be years down the line.

Jurgen Klopp’s side faced West Brom on this day four years ago in the FA Cup, which represented the sixth time VAR had been used in an English club fixture.

It proved to be an action-packed afternoon at Anfield, providing those inside the ground with a taste of attending a game with an uncertain edge added to the equation.

The first talking point arose during the first half when West Brom were denied what was their third goal of the game in the 20 th minute.

Craig Dawson thought he had headed the Baggies into a two-goal lead from a corner, though VAR intervened due to Gareth Barry, who was in an offside position and was blocking goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

No goal.

Two minutes later, and VAR was again in action.

Referee Andre Mariner was referred to the pitchside monitor to check a potential penalty for Liverpool following a Jake Livermore foul on Mohamed Salah.

Close to three minutes had passed between the initial incident and Roberto Firmino stepping up to the penalty spot, only then for his effort to hit the woodwork.

At this point, this was a match that had failed to gain any sense of rhythm due to the time taken for periods of play to be reviewed.

As the first half drew to a close, there was still one final check completed as West Brom had another goal examined.

Having already seen one effort chalked off, Alan Pardew was a relieved man when VAR determined that the offside Jay Rodriguez did not touch the ball as Dawson’s shot came off Joel Matip before crossing the line.

Confusion reigned at Anfield on the day of this eventual 3-2 defeat for Liverpool, though steps have since been taken to improve the decision-making process which now occurs on a game-to-game basis.

Speaking after his side’s loss to West Brom that day, Klopp was optimistic that football would reap the rewards of VAR in the long run.

“Of course, it will change things,” he said.

“Is it nice that West Brom celebrate a goal and then somebody tells them it’s not a goal? But that’s actually what we always wanted: if a goal should be disallowed, it should be disallowed.

“It’s normal, in the beginning, that it takes a little bit longer. Is it cool in January when it’s cold? Maybe not. I think it will become smoother or more fluent in the future.”

Meanwhile opposition boss Pardew raised his concerns over the potential of increased injuries.

“You’re going from high tempo work rate to nothing. We had a hamstring just after that,” he moaned.



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“Now as a coach, we have to change, we’re going to get our players to do a warm-up in that situation. The Dawson goal would never be disallowed in any game without the system (VAR). It’s marginal, really marginal.”

VAR has certainly experienced gradual improvement since making its way into the game four years ago, but there remains plenty of work to be done.

The outrage that followed after Diogo Jota’s awarded penalty against Crystal Palace at the weekend was the latest evidence to suggest that Premier League referees continue to be stuck in two minds of listening to the advice of those at Stockley Park or sticking with their original verdict.

Adaptations to the system will likely follow in the coming years but, no matter what changes are made, expect contentious calls to remain an inescapable part of the game.





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