From almost the first whistle, the Reds’ trip to the London Stadium proved to be a contentious one, with Alisson‘s fourth-minute own goal the first flashpoint.
With Pablo Fornals whipping in a corner, Alisson found himself struggling beneath Angelo Ogbonna, whose flailing arm knocked that of the Liverpool goalkeeper which, in turn, saw him divert it into his own net.
Referee Craig Pawson consulted Stuart Attwell in the VAR booth, but the decision was made to award West Ham the goal – and soon after, both were called into action again.
This time, it came with Aaron Cresswell going through the ball and scything Jordan Henderson down via a nasty knock to his knee, which in the laws of the game should have been a red card, but the West Ham defender escaped punishment.
West Ham were impressive in their game plan, and Klopp was at pains to stress that they could only play within the referee’s jurisdiction, but Pawson and Attwell came in for criticism.
In his post-match press conference, the Liverpool manager was asked if referees have become used to relying on VAR as a ‘backup plan’.
“Not all refs, but he does. Not all refs,” Klopp replied.
“It’s just the situation, he thinks ‘OK, let’s see what he says, so I don’t whistle it’. But he did that today, definitely.
“There was another situation, Trent Alexander-Arnold, after a set-piece I think second ball, he takes the ball [on the] volley, goes down, it’s not a foul [according to the ref].
“But he has a proper bruise under his foot, so where’s that coming from?
“It’s just, don’t do anything, let’s see what the VAR is saying.
“And then we have the problem with the ‘clear and obvious mistake’ because whoever is then there in the VAR hides behind that phrase.
“Then we have two people hiding and in the end we have the wrong decision.”
Klopp believes Ogbonna’s challenge on Alisson was a “clear foul” and Cresswell’s tackle a “clear red card,” with Pawson not even whistling for the latter despite Henderson’s anguish.
“I really don’t know who was VAR today,” he continued.
“You always have to say the ref maybe in the game can’t see that.
“But in the situation when you see the dynamic of the whole situation, when they all go down, how close they are, how can that not be a foul already without pushing the arm of Alisson away?
“The ref made it easy for himself and thought ‘come on, let’s see what the VAR is saying’, the VAR had a look and said ‘not clear and obvious’. I don’t know why.
“And here’s the goal, which is really strange.”