With less than a quarter of an hour left to play, Everton had jumped into the lead at Brighton & Hove Albion, coming back from a goal down to edge ahead 2-1. It was going to be the first time Marco Silva’s side had come from behind to win a Premier League game, until Michael Keane accidentally trod on Aaron Connolly with the ball nowhere near them.
Match referee Andy Madley didn’t even notice the incident that Connolly himself only half-heartedly appealed, until VAR referee Lee Mason decided to step in. Mason deemed it as a penalty and communicated that decision to Madley, who then didn’t even bother to review it on the pitchside monitor before pointing to the spot. It was the first time ever in the Premier League the VAR referee had interceded to give a penalty, and despite the dozens of legitimate fouls we see not called week after week, an innocuous error was called against the Blues and turned the tide of the game, Brighton coming back to win.
Then last week against Tottenham Hotspur, a high ball lofted into the box clearly went off Dele’s arm raised in an unnatural position, deflecting it from its trajectory. Despite the hue and cry at Goodison Park though, the review bizarrely came back as a negative on a penalty.
Now it appears the Premier League have privately admitted to Everton that the Blues have indeed been hard done by the officiating, though a public apology has not been forthcoming.
A number of Premier League managers met with the referees’ chief, Mike Riley, on Thursday to discuss the issues with VAR and how it’s hurting the game early on this season, and Silva voiced his frustration after the meeting.
“If they say to me, ‘Marco, sorry, it was not a penalty’, what does that change? I know it was not a penalty.
“It doesn’t help at all. Mistakes are part of the game but when you put in VAR it is to try to eliminate clear and obvious mistakes from the game.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had earlier said that he feared a manager or two would lose their jobs over the errors being made by the referees and the VAR officials, and Silva agreed with his Merseyside counterpart, while not necessarily saying he was one of the managers under pressure.
“What Klopp said is 100 per cent right. I’m not talking about myself here, he was talking in general terms and he was completely right.
“It is also my opinion and the opinion of all the managers in the world, not just here in the Premier League. It was so clear in the last three or four games and we are talking about it costing us five or six points. Where would we be with those points? I don’t have any doubts that we would be performing on a different level if we had those points. Every team in the world plays with more confidence when it is higher up the table.
“Now we are not in the position we want, I am not happy with the position we are in, but I know things would be completely different if football was fair with us. We deserved more but it is done and I can change nothing. It was so clear and now we go into another must-win game – and every game is a must-win game for us – when we would have had more freedom and confidence had we been higher in the table.”
The Blues travel to Southampton this weekend with Paul Tierney in charge and Simon Hooper behind the VAR monitors.