We all knew it. Anyone with eyes knew it. And now the head of the Premier League referees, Howard Webb, has admitted yet another very costly VAR decision that went against Liverpool.
The incident in question this time was Martin Odegaard’s blatant handball in the Premier League match at Anfield just before Christmas.
The Arsenal captain clearly moved his hand towards the ball just inside the area, but the referee, Chris Kavanagh, did not award a penalty.
Reviewing the incident in the VAR room was David Coote and assistant VAR Lee Betts.
In the now-released VAR audio, referee Kavanagh can be heard saying: “No, his hand’s on the floor.”
To which, VAR Coote says: “Ok, checking possible penalty for handball.”
Coote then says: “It clearly hits his arm. That’s not the point I’m looking at.”
Coote then assesses: “For me, Lee (Betts)… he’s falling down, he’s moving his arms towards him, so it’s check complete for me.”
Assistant VAR Betts replies: “Yeah, from the brief look I’ve seen, yeah, agreed, yeah, yeah.”
Coote: “Check complete. Confirming on-field decision, no penalty.”
Coote, of course, has had a series of run-ins with Jurgen Klopp in the past. Famously he missed Jordan Pickford’s challenge on Virgil van Dijk in 2020, when it’s claimed he forget to check the foul itself and only checked the offside.
Coote’s decision not to award the penalty for Liverpool was the latest subject of Webb’s on the Premier League‘s ‘Mic’d Up’ show on Tuesday night, on which Webb admitted a penalty should have been awarded:
“The on-field referee recognised Odegaard had slipped and saw his arm go towards the ground. We’ve talked in the past about supporting arms if someone falls or breaks their fall with their arm, it’s a pretty well-established concept.
“In this situation, though, there’s an important difference to a normal player that’s fallen. This is not just Odegaard accidentally falling onto the ball, his arm does go out but then he pulls his arm back in towards his body which is when the ball makes contact with his arm.
“The VAR looked at that aspect. He thought it was a case of Odegaard trying to make himself smaller by bringing his arm back to his body. That is the element that’s important here. Whether it’s instinctive or deliberate, he gets a huge advantage by bringing the arm back towards the ball.
“The feedback we got back afterwards was very clear, the game expects a penalty in this situation and I would agree. As such, this one did not reach the right outcome on that basis.”
In addition, ESPN journalist Dale Johnson explained how an independent panel, separately, adjudged 4-1 in favour that a penalty should have been award.