Harry Kane and Erik Lamela were both awarded controversial penalties in the 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Spurs. But were the decisions of referee Jon Moss and assistant Eddie Smart correct?
Kane fouled, 84th minute
There are two elements to this decision -- firstly the offside call, and secondly whether Kane dived or was brought down by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karus.
Was Harry Kane offside? No.
It took three minutes from the penalty being given for the spot kick to be taken, so maybe the delays for VAR aren't all that bad. The difference here, however, is that you could hear what the officials were discussing (see below). It might have been no use to the fans in the stadium, but at least those at home had an idea what was going on. Is this the way to fix the clunky VAR procedure in the future? It might just be.
But back to the decision.
When Dele Alli plays the ball forward there is no doubt that Kane is in an offside position, but he does not receive it from that pass. Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren made a deliberate, but poor, attempt to play the ball. As he made contact with the ball that essentially creates a new phase of play and Kane is now onside.
Law 11 confused Jurgen Klopp, who could not understand why Kane was not adjudged to be offside, despite being stood in an offside position. As the FIFA law book states, "a player is not committing an offence simply by being in an offside position. Active involvement plus offside position is the offence."
And this is the key part.
The law continues: "A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage."
Lovren's actions are deliberate not because he tried to pass the ball to Kane, or even into that area, it's that it was a definite attempt to play the ball in any way. If Lovren had been stood with his back to goal and the ball hit him, or a shot had deflected off him, that would not have been deliberate and Kane therefore offside.
Some will argue that Kane's mere presence behind Lovren caused the defender to make that judgement call, and should therefore be considered active. But Kane did not make a movement toward the ball, or a gesture, and as such the officials were correct as he is not active until the ball gets to him.
Was Kane fouled by Karius? Yes.
Kane went through on goal and was fouled by Loris Karius, with Van Dijk later adamant the striker had dived. Kane might well have been looking for it, but Karius came rushing out and there was definite contact, so Moss made the correct decision.
Would VAR have changed the decision? No, offside would not have been given and the penalty call was not a clear and obvious error.
Lamela fouled, 94th minute
Let's start with the offside decision against Lamela. It's an incredibly tight call and one you can't blame assistant referee Smart for not spotting.
When Fernando Llorente flicks the ball on to Lamela, going by a freeze frame shown on Sky Sports, it appears that the outside of the Argentine's left foot and his leg are in just front of the last defender (remember the arms do not count). It's a call of inches.
Turns out Lamela was offside as well. Quality. Cheers lino mate. Great stuff. pic.twitter.com/9zJv4nBsyU— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) February 4, 2018
But there is no consideration for it being "a clear and obvious error" on VAR here. A player is either offside or he isn't based upon the pictures shown. Even if a toe is in front of the last defender, offside will be called.
On the foul itself, you can argue it was soft but there was definite contact from Virgil van Dijk -- even if two separate camera angles seem to contradict each other about the level of contact Van Dijk made to the back of Lamela's thigh. Klopp himself admitted Van Dijk caught his opponent, and it was a foolish attempt to play the ball from that position.
Was it a foul, and therefore a penalty? Yes
Should the play have got to that point? On balance, no -- but it's too close to call to blame the assistant referee for any error.
VAR would not have overturned the act of Van Dijk fouling Lamela, correct decision. But it would have called the offside.
What Moss and Smart discussed
For the first decision there was a long discussion between the two officials, clearly audible on Sky Sports. Here is what was said, with interjections from Christian Eriksen and Emre Can.
Smart: "All I need to know is, did Lovren touch the ball?"
Moss: "I don't know."
Smart: "If he's not touched the ball, it is offside, so you're chalking off the penalty. It has to be offside if Lovren has not touched the ball.
Christian Eriksen: "He did touch the ball."
Emre Can: "He didn't touch the ball."
Moss: "Just talk to me again."
Smart: "You know what I'm asking; I need to clarify, has Lovren touched the ball? If he has, it's a deliberate action and, therefore, it's a penalty. If he has not, it is offside.
Moss: "I have no idea whether Lovren touched the ball to be honest with you. Martin (Atkinson), have you got anything from TV? I'm giving the penalty."
Moss asking Atkinson, the fourth official, if he has seen it on TV is confusing for two reasons. Firstly, it is not permissible for officials to make decisions off TV replays. And secondly, there are no TV screens in the technical areas for Atkinson to have had a second view.