Liverpool have been left to lick their wounds after a fourth consecutive league defeat at Anfield.
Having fallen to Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City in front of the Kop in recent weeks, their hopes of retaining the Premier League crown weakened further this weekend.
The Reds slumped to their first home loss to Everton of the 21st century on Saturday night, allowing their Merseyside neighbours to move level on points in the Premier League with a game in hand.
Liverpool 0-2 Everton
And the writing was on the wall for Liverpool within the opening few minutes as Everton rushed into a rapid lead with Richarlison finishing soundly from James Rodriguez’s through-ball.
Admittedly, Jordan Pickford produced a superb save to deny an equaliser from Jordan Henderson, but Everton remained in control with Seamus Coleman forcing Alisson Becker into a stop of his own.
Nevertheless, the killer blow didn’t come until the final ten minutes when Everton were awarded a highly controversial penalty, which Gylfi Sigurdsson duly converted to wrap up a 2-0 victory.
Everton’s controversial penalty
But there was a sour taste in the mouth for Liverpool fans because their local rivals had won the spot-kick due to Dominic Calvert-Lewin effectively tripping over Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Considering Alexander-Arnold looked to have been kneed in the head himself and seemingly had no intention of tripping up the Everton striker, countless fans thought the decision was outrageous.
And that’s not to mention that some supporters accused Chris Kavanagh of bearly looking at the incident when he consulted the pitchside monitor to corroborate the penalty decision.
‘Alexander-Arnold should have been sent off’
But let’s hold our horses for a second and ask: was the decision objectively correct?
Besides, whether or not we think the penalty should have been given in an ideal world is ultimately irrelevant and it’s the laws of the game itself that should be followed by the match officials.
And according to ESPN Editor Dale Johnson, the Premier League officials were spot on when it came to awarding the penalty but didn’t take the correct course of action against Alexander-Arnold.
“The penalty to Everton was the correct decision – remember intent was taken out of the Laws of the Game,” Johnson penned on Twitter.
“However, as with David Luiz vs. Wolves, Trent Alexander-Arnold should have been sent off as a clear goal-scoring opportunity was denied for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
“VAR review was to overturn the penalty, not for a red card. Chris Kavanagh obviously very confident in his decision, with the review being so quick.
“But the VAR, Andre Marriner, should have been advising DOGSO red once the referee said he was sticking with the penalty.”
In other words, regardless of how accidental Alexander-Arnold’s actions were, the laws of the game dictate that he should have been sent off for denying Calvert-Lewin a goal-scoring opportunity.
The Laws of the Game
But if you’re still not satisfied, then let’s turn our attentions to the lawbook itself and more specifically, ‘LAW 12: FOULS AND MISCONDUCT’ under the IFAB Laws of the Game for the 2020-21 season.
Under the subsection concerning the denial of goal-scoring opportunities, the rulebook states:
“Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned if the offence was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off.”
The importance of intent
Things are never clear and lucid when it comes to terms and conditions, are they?
But if we’re to put two and two together based on Johnson’s assessment, then we can pretty safely infer that Alexander-Arnold should have been sent off because he had ‘no possibility to play the ball’.
Sigh. Now, maybe we’re just being old-fashioned, but this just reaffirms to us that intent being cut and cropped from more footballing laws is making the game more robotic and unemotional.
Sure, diving headfirst into the pool of objectivity might seem appealing but as with the handball rule, we’re dealing with human beings here and punishing accidents like this seems downright brutal.