Former referees' chief SLAMS Howard Webb over Liverpool penalty incident

Former head of referees Keith Hackett has called out Howard Webb for 'defending the indefensible' after the current PGMOL boss discussed why Liverpool weren't awarded a late penalty in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City for Jeremy Doku's high boot on Alexis Mac Allister.

Liverpool were left feeling aggrieved not to have been given a second penalty deep into stoppage time of the title clash on 10 March, when Mac Allister was caught in the chest by Doku inside the area.

Referee Michael Oliver ignored the shouts for a foul, while the VAR review led by Stuart Atwell saw no reason to overturn the on-field decision.

The incident led to widespread outrage and incredulity. Speaking after the game Jurgen Klopp told reporters: "It's a penalty for all football people on the planet. If you think it's not one, then maybe you are not a football person."

On Tuesday, it was reported that the Premier League's Key Match Incidents (KMI) panel, responsible for reviewing controversial moments in matches, had upheld Oliver's decision.

That ruling was then followed by the latest episode of Match Officials Mic'd Up, in which PGMOL chief Webb talked through the decisions alongside VAR audio from the game, which included the meme-generating line from Atwell "they both come in high".

Defending the decision not to intervene on Oliver's initial call and seek a pitch-side review, Webb said: "The ball is too low to head. Doku, lifts his foot to play the ball, and he does make contact on the ball.

"And yes, we know there's some contact on Mac Allister as well, Mac Allister comes into him, Mac Allister is not really playing the ball either. So, I understand why it's split opinion."

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester City FC LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 10, 2024: Liverpool s Alexis Mac Allister appeals for a penalty during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

He continued: "And then the VAR looks at it and doesn't see a clear and obvious situation. You see something that's pretty subjective and therefore stays out of it, and the feedback we've had from people within the game is that this is a pretty subjective situation, it's split opinion.

"So on that basis, the VAR, you know, working to that high threshold kind of followed the kind of the right course in not getting involved."

Webb's justification didn't go down well with many fans who felt they were being fed an alternative reality.

'Abject nonsense'

Former official and head of Premier League referees Hackett was among those left incredulous by the attempts to re-frame the decision.

He posted on X (Twitter): "Not a foul Howard? you are joking. Do not defend the indefensible."

He followed that post up by calling the decision "abject nonsense" citing IFAB Law 12's definition of 'careless and reckless' offences.

Hackett was not the only former referee to take issue with the decision.

Mark Clattenberg also agreed that the incident should have led to a spot kick for the Reds.

He wrote in his column for the Daily Mail: "Liverpool should have been awarded a stoppage-time penalty against Manchester City but this is the problem in the Premier League right now – referees are making mistakes in matches and not being helped by their VARs.

"The ball bounces up. Alexis Mac Allister moves towards it. Jeremy Doku’s foot is high. He catches Mac Allister in the chest.

"Outside of the box, this would have resulted in a free-kick, every day of the week. Just because it happened inside the box does not suddenly transform it into a clean challenge when Mac Allister might be left playing connect the dots on his chest on Monday morning."

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