How VAR got Luis Diaz's offside decision so wrong

Will Castle
10 months ago

There were a plethora of egregious refereeing decisions that marred yesterday's contest between Liverpool and Tottenham.

However, one in particular stood out: the incorrect denial of Luis Diaz's 34th-minute opener.

Diaz ran on to Mohamed Salah's through ball to score past Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, but was flagged offside by the on-field officials.

Replays showed that the Colombian was actually more than in line with the trailing leg of Cristian Romero.

So, as is procedure, Darren England on VAR should have intervened - he should have drawn up his lines, highlighting the error by the officials and overturning the decision to disallow the goal.

Yet, there were no lines, there was no intervention, there was no goal - and two minutes later, Heung-min Son went up the other end and handed Tottenham the lead.

Liverpool went on to lose the game 2-1, with two of their players - Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota - shown extremely questionable red cards.

Not since June 2020 have we witnessed such a catastrophic case of human error by those in Stockley Park - that instance, of course, being the infamous failure of goal-line technology in Aston Villa's clash with Sheffield United, and the subsequent inaction to rectify the decision not to award the Blades a goal by the video assistants, despite the ball clearly crossing the line.

As we continue to digest the events of yesterday evening, one question continues to beg - how was this allowed to happen?

How it happened

Here's the nuts of bolts of how and why Diaz's goal was disallowed, as revealed by Dale Johnson of ESPN.

Spoiler alert, collective ineptitude is through the roof.

Darren England, in charge of VAR, checked the offside thinking the on-field decision was 'goal'.

England was wrong - and given the flag in the air, the lack of celebration from the Liverpool players and the scoreline remaining 0-0, it's bewildering how he came to this conclusion.

Nevertheless, the offside check was quick because it was clear Diaz was onside, so he told the referee 'check complete'.

In telling the ref 'check complete', he was confirming that the on-field decision was correct. Which inadvertently disallowed the goal for offside.

And before anyone could highlight the error, Spurs had taken the free-kick, meaning the decision couldn't be rolled back.

There's been lots of speculation on how this gigantic, quite unbelievable miscommunication surrounding the on-field decision came to pass, with reports that England was in the UAE officiating a match just 48 hours prior to Saturday's debacle further fuelling the criticism.

Questions have to be asked of the on-field officials as well, who obviously failed to clearly communicate exactly what England was meant to be checking, leaving him to effectively rely on his own guesswork.

On the whole, it was simply calamitous from all parties involved.

The reaction

Shortly after the match's conclusion, PGMOL, the body responsible for match officials across the English professional game, acknowledged that a “significant human error” had occurred.

In a statement, they said: “The goal by Luiz Díaz was disallowed for offside by the on-field team of match officials. This was a clear and obvious factual error and should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention, however, the VAR failed to intervene.

“PGMOL will conduct a full review into the circumstances which led to the error. PGMOL will be immediately contacting Liverpool at the conclusion of the fixture to acknowledge the error.”

What does this mean for Liverpool? Very little, in all honesty.

According to The Athletic, Liverpool may decide to register their annoyance to the PGMOL but are highly unlikely to issue an official complaint - and even if they did, a replay of the game or retrospective awarding of points would not be in order.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp was under no illusions of what PGMOL's apology means (or doesn't mean) for Liverpool.

“Who does that help now? We won’t get points for it, it won’t help,” Klopp said. “Nobody expects 100 per cent right decisions but we thought when VAR came in it might make things easier.

“The decision was made really quick and it changed the momentum of the game.

“A similar situation occurred this season, between Wolves and Manchester United. Did Wolves get the points? It doesn’t matter.”

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