Confusion reigned on the sidelines at Anfield on Sunday night with the final advice to give the first Tottenham penalty against Liverpool apparently provided by Spurs playmaker Christian Eriksen.
In an astonishing four way conversation between referee Jon Moss, linesman Eddie Smart, Liverpool captain Emre Can and Eriksen, the two officials repeatedly said “I don’t know” to the question if Dejan Lovren had touched Dele Alli’s through ball to Harry Kane, thus putting the Spurs playmaker onside.
Neither Moss or Smart have the answer. Moss even admits he has “no idea.”
Eriksen then interjects that Lovren did touch the ball. Moss then asks fourth official Martin Atkinson to check the TV on the sideline – a move he later admitted was wrong to call for.
Moss then decides to award the penalty.
Without input from Atkinson or new information from Smart it may well have been Eriksen’s input that made him point to the spot.
Here is the transcript of the conversation:
Smart: “All I need to know, 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 (TO SMART): “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, have you got anything from TV? I’m giving the penalty.”
Moss then pointed to the spot send Liverpool players and fans into meltdown.
Understandably Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was fuming after the game and accused match officials for wanting to be centre of attention.
“Did you ever hear? I am not allowed to go in their room until half an hour after,” he raged.
“It was clear offside, unbelievable, I don’t know what they were discussing.”
In one of the year’s most incident filled encounters Tottenham went on to snatch a draw thanks to another controversial penalty after Virgil van Dijk was adjudged to have kicked Erik Lamela from behind.
But a statement from Professional Game Match Officials Limited has otherwise backed Moss’ handling of the incident which saw Harry Kane fouled by Loris Karius. Referee Moss consulted with his assistant Eddie Smart to clarify whether Kane was offside as the ball came through to him before eventually awarding the spot-kick.
The statement read: “Jon Moss was in a good position to see that a Liverpool player deliberately played the ball before it fell to Harry Kane. He then correctly judged that Kane was fouled by Lorius Karius.
“Eddie Smart correctly sought clarification on whether Dejan Lovren had deliberately played the ball. His question created some momentary confusion when Eddie asked if ‘Lovren’ had touched the ball. Moss knew a Liverpool player had touched the ball but not that it was Lovren.
“He then asked a question to his fourth official Martin Atkinson and acknowledges that referencing ‘TV’ was misguided.
Atkinson did not reply to the question and so had no involvement in the decision. Having properly reflected on the questions asked, Jon knew that a Liverpool player, now identified as Lovren, had played the ball and that no offside offence had occurred. He then awarded the penalty.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Atkinson did not view a television monitor and did not relay any information to the on-field officials.”
You may not have heard of the name Eddie Smart before but if you are a Liverpool fan you sure know it now.
Smart was the linesman who awarded not one but two crucial penalties to the visitors in the controversial Liverpool v Tottenham Premier League clash at Anfield on Sunday.
If this wasn‘t enough he appeared to fist-pump in celebration after the first penalty was given and then – in the final act of the game – vehemently over-ruled referee Jonathan Moss with some Olympic standard flag waving to assure the second penalty was awarded.
The internet has exploded after the match with debate on the decisions.
Some have come out in support of Smart with former refs Graham Poll saying he got both decisions spot on while Dermot Gallagher went so far as to say Smart “covered himself in glory”.
Safe to say those on the red half of Merseyside do not agree.
Jurgen Klopp was understandably inconsolable at the loss of two points, which should have been in the bag after Mohamed Salah had scored a Messi-like super goal in the first minute of added time to give Liverpool what looked like a deserved 2-1 victory.
But not according to Smart.
Let’s remember how much was at stake here. In a desperate fight for Champions League qualification, so important to both Spurs and Liverpool, Smart’s decision ushered in a four point swing.
The Reds now lead Tottenham by just two points – whereas if Liverpool had won their lead would be five points. With just 12 games to go five points is a big margin. Two points – even with one round left – is easily achievable.
So Champions League qualification was up for grabs, as well as millions of pounds, the fate of many hoped for transfer signings, even the short term future of both clubs – all this comes down to this one moment.
This is why Smart has to be sure before he starts waving his flag like he’s on a cheerleading tryout.
Moss, who was closer than the linesman, saw the final incident and quickly and clearly signaled no penalty – so Smart has to be one hundred percent, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was a penalty.
One hundred percent.
Did Virgil van Dijk touch Erik Lamela? Probably
Was it a penalty? Maybe.
Even most Liverpool fans would agree with that – but the referee has made his decision: no pen. So if Smart is to intervene, and change the result of the match, the fate of Champions League qualification, he must be completely 100 per cent, 1000 per cent certain and how could he have been?
It was a 50-50 call at best.
It seemed in the last ten minutes of the match the linesman entered a zone where he was not considering why a penalty should be awarded but why should a penalty not be awarded.
As Klopp said after the match: “There were some real challenges in the first half, lots of moments when it could have been a free-kick but the referee said ‘today that’s the game, that’s allowed’ and then the softest touch in the whole game decides the game.”
Klopp was also bemused by the linesman’s desperation to have the final penalty awarded: “Did you see the linesman? He was immediately on his way. He was sure. I would love to blame the whole world but I can’t blame Jon Moss.”
No, but he can blame Smart – although he won’t as he doesn’t want “to pay the biggest fine in world football.”
Linesman have a tough job and of course the decision must be respected – something Liverpool players and fans are finding very hard to accept right now – but the most basic fundamentals of the game also need to be respected.
The linesman should accept the referee’s call unless he is rock-solid.
As Klopp said: “It’s not about who is where. In the 93rd minute you whistle a penalty when you are 100 per cent sure.”
And as smart as he may be there is no way Eddie Smart could have been that.