On Sunday, a little over 24 hours after Virgil van Dijk hobbled off the Goodison Park pitch after just eight minutes of action, it was confirmed that he would face surgery and a long recovery process after suffering ACL damage.
The injury had been caused by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, whose dangerous scythe cut down the Dutchman in the box – leaving him crumpled in a heap and in a great deal of pain.
On-field referee Michael Oliver either didn’t see it or used an offside earlier in the move to duck out of having to make a decision about what to do. VAR official David Coote, who will certainly have seen it, hid behind the offside and barely even took into account Pickford’s obvious violent conduct, for which he should have been shown a red card.
Liverpool players and fans had every right to be seething about the injustice, but even more so when the appalling yet sadly unsurprising news was announced around midday on Monday that The FA would not take any retrospective disciplinary action on Pickford.
The whole sorry affair screams of cowardice on behalf of those who oversee our so-called beautiful game. From Coote’s calamitous handling of the occasion at Stockley Park to our governing body’s reluctance to admit their errors – it is an embarrassment to English football.
The FA says it will only retrospectively punish players if an incident wasn’t seen in the first place either by the on-field officials or those in charge of VAR. It is claimed that VAR looked at Pickford’s challenge and deemed that it “wasn’t worthy” of a red card.Embed from Getty Images
Even ignoring the insanity of this conclusion – the ball was around two feet away from both Pickford and van Dijk, and the goalkeeper’s challenge was at least knee-height – there was little evidence at the time to support the assertion that the incident was properly checked.
Plenty of time was spend drawing lines and scratching heads to determine that there was an offside in the build up to the incident, but not once did we see concrete proof of a VAR check on the actual lunge itself. It seemed as though, once the offside was confirmed, no-one cared about the disgraceful ‘challenge’ which would rob a player of months of football and cause a severe blow to a club’s title ambitions.
Pickford’s actions looked pre-meditated and there was certainly a lack of regard for the damage he might cause someone by launching into a challenge in such an uncontrolled fashion.
The end result is that van Dijk has been left with a career-halting long-term injury, Liverpool have been left without arguably their most important player for pretty much the rest of the season, and Pickford has got away scot-free due to the incompetence and cowardice of those who oversee the sport.
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