On Liverpool, penalties and VAR

When it comes to Liverpool and penalties, rival supporters immediately bring up Mo Salah’s name, given the number of occasions – particularly last season – when post-match discussions seemed to focus on whether or not a penalty that had been won by the Egyptian was the correct decision.

Although there were undoubtedly instances after which Salah could be accused of going to ground a little too easily, that wasn’t the case on every occasion and there are other examples of Salah remaining on his feet despite being fouled and knocked off balance by defenders.

The latter scenarios naturally get little attention, but with the introduction of VAR, it would have been hoped that the more questionable penalty decisions could be reviewed – and overturned if necessary.

But as Liverpool themselves are finding out, that hasn’t proven to be the case.

In both of their European matches this season, Liverpool have conceded a penalty which has been approved by officials overseeing the VAR process. On both occasions, there has been fierce debate over whether the spot-kicks should have stood given the extent of contact ocurring.

During August’s Super Cup in Istanbul, Adrian was adjudged to have brought down Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, though slow motion replays failed to show how the Liverpool goalkeeper caused the Chelsea forward to fall in the dramatic way that he did.

And against Napoli last night, Andy Robertson conceded a penalty despite replays clearing showing Jose Callejon diving before any contact was made.

Had Callejon not dived there was chance that he would have gone down anyway as Robertson had missed the ball. But there was also a possibility of the Napoli player remaining on his feet and it not being a foul at all.

If VAR allows attacking players to pre-judge whether or not a foul is about to take place, and to dive to the ground in anticipation of it occurring, it’s unlikely to resolve the type of controversy that has angered fans in the past, and will do little to discourage attempts of cheating.

When added to the issues already caused by VAR inconsistencies relating to handball offences, offsides and the position of goalkeepers when facing penalty kicks, it’s clear that there’s a long way to go before the technology can serve the purpose for which it was introduced.

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