In the latest episode of Match Officials Mic’d Up, the audio of the officials’ discussions regarding Liverpool’s penalty claim was revealed. They decided in favor of Manchester City because Jeremy Doku and Alexis Mac Allister “both came in high,” and contact was made with the ball.

Liverpool sought a penalty in the dying moments of their intense clash against Manchester City, which ended in a 1-1 draw. However, referee Michael Oliver dismissed their appeals, and VAR Stuart Attwell upheld the on-field decision.

The audio of the officials’ deliberations, released in Match Officials Mic’d Up, disclosed that they sided with City because “they both came in high,” and Doku made contact with the ball.

Although Head of Referees Howard Webb defended VAR’s decision not to overturn the call, there are concerns raised by Sky Sports’ Peter Smith. He argues that the explanation contradicts previous guidance and overlooks Mac Allister’s grounded position.

Smith highlights two key issues: firstly, despite the officials’ claim that Doku made contact with the ball, replays show that Mac Allister reached it first. Even if Doku did make contact first, Smith points out a precedent set by Webb in a previous game involving Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez.

Secondly, Smith questions the assertion that “they both came in high.” He notes that while Doku’s boot was raised, Mac Allister’s feet remained on the ground or barely left it, as he attempted to chest the ball. Smith suggests that when players make contact with opponents with their boots raised, it often results in a foul and sometimes a red card elsewhere on the pitch.

Ultimately, the decision not to award Liverpool a penalty in such a crucial moment of the game is seen as contentious, with Liverpool fans likely feeling aggrieved by the outcome.

Full transcript of the officials’ decision-making

VAR: “Headed, for me. Possible foul on defender.”

Ref: “No. Not for me, mate.”

VAR: “Checking for possible penalty.”

Ref: “Yeah. I think the ball is in the middle and he just tries to play the ball and there might be some contact.”

VAR: “OK. So that angle’s good. Can you just go slowly, I just want to establish if… So, there is clear contact on the ball by Doku. So here’s the ball and then there’s a coming together.

“Just give me one more that shows Mac Allister coming in. He turns his body.”

RO: “What do you want to see, sorry?”

VAR: “Yeah, so he plays the ball. The ball’s high, they both come in high. I don’t think there’s enough evidence there for a penalty kick. You happy with that?”

AVAR: “Let’s have a look, mate. Just showing it on broadcast as well. Here we go.”

VAR: “He plays the ball.”

AVAR: “Are you happy he definitely plays it?”

VAR: “He’s definitely touched it. Mac Allister’s then coming into his space. Mac Allister turns his back into him, it’s a coming together. Ollie [Michael Oliver, the ref] confirm on-field decision of play on. Check is complete, check is complete.”

What did Howard Webb say about the incident?

Michael Owen (presenter): “Was this a penalty? I thought it sort of wasn’t at the start. I see it again and I’m thinking it is. I’m really 50-50 on it.”

Howard Webb: “You’re not alone, this has split a lot of opinion. It’s one of those, for sure, if it was given on-field it would have been a check complete by the VAR, and equally having not giving it, it is also a check complete.

“You hear Michael Oliver saying the ball is in between and two players going together.

“The ball is too low to head. Doku lifts his foot to play the ball and he does make contact on the ball. Yes, we know there is contact on Mac Allister as well. As Mac Allister comes in, he is not playing the ball either.

“I understand why it has split opinion. I think it would have been check complete either way, not wanting to re-ref the games in situations that are not really clear which is what we think VAR is for.

“In this situation VAR stays out of it and that is what we would expect.”

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