Premier League referee Michael Oliver has said he made a mistake not to show Everton’s Jordan Pickford a red card for his tackle on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk in the Merseyside derby in October.
Van Dijk suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the 2-2 draw and underwent knee surgery but Pickford’s challenge went unpunished by Oliver and VAR officials.
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VAR ruled that the Liverpool defender was offside and therefore a penalty was not awarded but Oliver has admitted that Pickford was lucky to stay on the pitch.
“The thought initially was, ‘it can’t be a penalty because it’s offside so we need to check the offside first,’ he told the Daily Mail.
“I think I said to the VAR, ‘if it’s not offside, I’m going to give a penalty.’ I have watched it back so many times. I genuinely don’t think Pickford has done anything apart from try to spread himself but he did it the wrong way, as the injury has shown.
“We have all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as should have done. We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off.
“What I was surprised about looking at it afterwards was that nothing was expected on-field in terms of a red card. None of the players were asking for that.
“We got sucked too much into going step by step as opposed to thinking of the bigger process, which was considering the challenge as well and not just the fact it can’t be a penalty.
“We should have restarted with the offside, as we did, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford.”
Sources told ESPN that Liverpool were concerned and confused by the VAR decisions on the day but Oliver said he is a huge fan of the technology.
“I know VAR has become an obsession,” Oliver added. “But I am for it. There is all the clamour about it changing the game.
“But if you scrapped it tomorrow lunchtime, all you would hear all weekend would be people shouting ‘that would be a pen with VAR.’ As soon as you moved it away, people would want it back.
“Ultimately, even with VAR, it’s still my decision. I’m the one who makes the decision on the field. And if I get it right first time around, there is no reason for VAR to get involved.
“Now that I can go and watch on a pitchside monitor, you’ve got a second chance, too. You can change your mind or stick with it.”