Unsurprisingly, the biggest talking point coming out of Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield was the decision by match official Jonathan Moss to award a penalty kick in the final minute of extra time to Spurs.
Tottenham’s Erik Lamela was kicked in the legs and brought down by Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, the infraction was spotted by Moss’s linesman, and after a conversation with his officiating staff Moss pointed to the spot. Harry Kane stepped up and buried the ball with the last kick of the game, giving Spurs an improbable but deserved point at Anfield.
Afterwards, unsurprisingly, the two managers had widely different opinions about the penalty decisions. First, here’s Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp:
“There were so many situations to talk about but the ref’s decisions decided the game so I can’t help but talk about them I don’t understand either of the penalty situations. The first one was offside and the second, I know already what the ref and his assistant will say.
”There was a touch, a little touch. But Lamela has jumped into him and wanted the touch and to go down. If the ref kept playing at that level then fine, but in the first half he wasn’t giving fouls. Then for the softest touch of the whole game he decides it is a foul.”
Pochettino, perhaps revealing his inner troll, had... well, a different view of the situation.
“The feeling is we dropped two points. We were much, much, much better than Liverpool.
”Both were a penalty and nothing to say, it is not controversial - it is nothing. Sometimes people complain about the referee, but when they are right it is good to tell everyone.”
So, in fairness, Liverpool fans have a legitimate gripe about the first penalty decision involving Kane. Harry was both offside and the touch on him was a little soft (even though there was definitely contact). However, Kane missed the penalty, so the karma evens itself out. It’s the second one that has sent Liverpool fans into apoplectic rage.
After the match, NBC Sports Network co-anchor Robbie Mustoe was aghast at the fact that the second penalty was given. His argument, which he repeated vociferously and unchallenged by anyone else on the broadcast, was that because Van Dijk was not aware that Lamela was coming for the ball that the challenge should not have been ruled a foul, much less a penalty.
Now, I’m a Spurs fan, and this is not an unbiased blog. However, Robbie Mustoe is dead wrong on this one, and only the most deluded of Liverpool fans (and Jurgen Klopp) could conclude that the incident between Van Dijk and Lamela was not a foul.
Here’s the definitive view of the incident, taken from the sideline camera from the perspective of the linesman (who initially made the call):
Linesman view. Gets it spot on. pic.twitter.com/naLUBijkpJ— Alex Richards (@AA_Richards) February 4, 2018
From that angle, there’s no question. It’s a foul. This was not an incident of Lamela initiating contact, since they were both going for the ball, but even if he did jump into VVD’s path, not knowing that Lamela was there does not negate the fact that Van Dijk still kicked him hard in the back of the legs. It’s a foul if that happens in the center circle, and it’s certainly a foul if it happens in the box.
The linesman saw that Moss didn’t have a good angle to see it from and immediately alerted him. After discussion, the officiating team made the correct decision and awarded the penalty, which Kane buried.
Now look: you can make an argument that it’s unfair that this incident, which was moderately off the ball, resulted in a penalty that is 85% likely to end with a goal. That may be a bad rule, but it’s still the rules of the game. Jonathan Moss’s team called the match according to the rules on the field and made the correct call.