Tottenham’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool was a game that had everything: loads of chances, Harry Kane’s first goal in ages, both sides coming back, a red card… and controversy. A lot of controversy.
Earlier in the day, BBC pundit Alan Shearer said the officials “have been awful for a long time now. The people running VAR don’t seem to be good enough” after Newcastle were refused a penalty in their 4-0 defeat by Manchester City.
And the theme continued at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the final Premier League game before Christmas.
“I have no idea what his problem is with me,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp about referee Paul Tierney, who he approached with some angry words at full-time.
“That is two wrong decisions from him and one right – all three against us.”
The angry German added he had wondered if there was anybody in the video assistant referee office before Andy Robertson was sent off.
What happened in the game?
13 mins: Harry Kane scores Spurs’ opener
20 mins: Kane catches Andy Robertson with a reckless sliding tackle and is booked. VAR does not upgrade it
35 mins: Diogo Jota equalises for Liverpool
37 mins: Jota is pushed over by Emerson Royal in the box, but a penalty is not given
39 mins: Klopp is booked for dissent
53 mins: Spurs’ Harry Winks is nudged over by Joel Matip on the edge of the area, but a penalty is not given
69 mins: Andy Robertson puts Liverpool ahead, the ball hits Mohamed Salah’s arm in build-up
74 mins: Son Heung-min equalises for Spurs
77 mins: Robertson is sent off for kicking Emerson’s legs by the VAR, after initially being shown a yellow card
What did Klopp have to say?
On Jota not winning a penalty and Klopp being booked: “Mr Tierney told me Diogo stops on purpose because he wants the foul. First and foremost, if you want to shoot you have to stop because you cannot do both.
“It is incredible. He had the best spot on the pitch and doesn’t give it.
“When you see the situation back, the VAR is there. Why is he stopping? I don’t understand.”
On being booked: “You will have to ask him what his problem is with me.
“I was a bit more emotional in the game but the referee gives me a yellow card – but it is not allowed in a situation like this? He comes over and gives me a yellow card but I’d have preferred the right decisions on the pitch.”
On Kane not being sent off: “That is a clear, absolutely 100% red card. I just need to ask two people, Mr Tierney and whoever was the VAR. Harry should not have been on the pitch in the second half and then tell me how the game goes.
“This situation, if Andy Robertson’s leg is still on the ground his leg is broken. We all agree on that.It is still a red card but the ref saw it differently.”
On Robertson’s red card: “It’s not the harshest ever but it is not the smartest as well; he knows that,he is a really good boy but he lost it a little bit.
“This red card you can give, but is there proof that the VAR was there today because before that we thought he might not be in his office because of the two other situations.”
On Tierney’s performance: “You don’t need a ref that helps you. You need a ref who is clear and objective. In three decisive decisions, he was once right and that was with Robbo, and twice wrong. All three were against us.”
How about the view from Spurs?
Spurs boss Antonio Conte said: “I don’t know if Jurgen wanted to comment on this but I can tell you my staff said to me that it was incredible to give the second goal and not to disallow it because there was a clear handball from Salah.
“I don’t like that we have to speak about refereeing decisions at the end. I think that’s not good for anyone.”
Kane did not even think he should have been booked, let alone sent off.
“At the time, I thought it was a good strong tackle,” he told BBC Sport. “Maybe it looks a little worse when you slow it down. That’s what VAR is there for [to make the right decision].
“There are going to be strong tackles in a game like this. I wasn’t worried. I was quite surprised [to be booked] to be honest.”
‘A joke of a decision’ – what did the pundits say?
Former Liverpool midfielder Ray Houghton said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “What we need from VAR is accountability, we don’t hear from them.
“They are just people in a room that make these decisions. Nothing is put on them about why they make a decision?
“That’s why you get situations where Jurgen Klopp is in his technical area absolutely furious. He could have got sent off. He’s seen a possible red card not given and a penalty not given.”
Ex-Wales midfielder Robbie Savage said: “I thought VAR was supposed to come to the correct decision. Honestly, I’m getting fed up again.”
And former Celtic forward Chris Sutton added: “What frustrates is the inconsistency. It is one rule for Tottenham today and one rule for Liverpool.”
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, speaking on Sky Sports, said: “You cannot condone speaking to a referee but managers are emotional. We want managers to be honest and emotional and the decisions that go against Liverpool, it was a blatant penalty. Harry Kane should have been sent off.
“We were frustrated with VAR a year or two ago; we are OK with it at the moment but we have gone right the other way. Now we are thinking what is the point of VAR with penalties? It is not VAR, it is who controls it.”
On the penalty that wasn’t given, ex-Reds midfielder Jamie Redknapp said: “He just barges him. At least get some opinion from VAR. There is not a fan of football, ex-player who would say that is not a penalty. It is a joke of a decision.”