Ref finally admits mistakes over Van Dijk-Pickford incident
Premier League referee Michael Oliver has admitted that Jordan Pickford should have been sent off for the challenge that has potentially sidelined Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk for the season.
Van Dijk has not played for Liverpool since sustaining a knee injury during October’s Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park, the centre-half undergoing surgery soon after.
He has released recent footage of his rehabilitation, with Jurgen Klopp preaching caution.
Klopp was furious with the tackle that injured Van Dijk, referencing “a very strange decision by one person” – Pickford – as recently as November.
Liverpool have pushed for a thorough explanation ever since, seemingly dissatisfied with the claim that VAR David Coote ‘didn’t know’ he could send Pickford off.
Oliver, the referee on the day, has formally admitted that the officiating team spent too long deciding whether Van Dijk was offside, and not enough time considering whether Pickford’s foul was worthy of a dismissal.
“It was a big game,” he told the Mail on Sunday. “Both teams were flying. The assistant has given offside and there is the delay in the flag, as we have had this season. Jordan then comes out to Virgil.
“The thought initially was, ‘it can’t be a penalty because it’s offside so we need to check the offside first.’ I think I said to the VAR, ‘if it’s not offside, I’m going to give a penalty.’
“I have watched it back so many times. I genuinely don’t think Pickford has done anything apart from try to spread himself but he did it the wrong way, as the injury has shown.
“We have all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as we should have done. We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off. What I was surprised about looking at it afterwards was that nothing was expected on-field in terms of a red card. None of the players were asking for that.
“We got sucked too much into going step by step as opposed to thinking of the bigger process, which was considering the challenge as well and not just the fact it can’t be a penalty.
“We should have restarted with the offside, as we did, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford.”