Referee Michael Oliver: Jordan Pickford should have been punished for fouling Virgil van Dijk
Premier League referee Michael Oliver has indicated he should have sent-off Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for his now infamous foul on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.
The Reds star suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the 2-2 draw with the Toffees in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park in October.
Van Dijk has remained on the sidelines ever since and set to miss the majority of the season. The 29-year-old defender sustained the injury in a reckless challenge made by England international Pickford.
Referee Oliver took no action to punish the goalkeeper at the time after VAR ruled there was an offside in the build-up to the tackle.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Oliver said: “It was a big game, both teams were flying in.
“The assistant had given offside and there is a delay in the flag, as we 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’.”
But after analysing the incident again amid complaints that he was at fault and that he should have shown the Toffees shot-stopper a red card in the match regardless off the offside, Oliver acknowledged that he had been too busy trying to decide if a penalty should be awarded rather than assessing the reckless nature of the tackle. In todays football betting for that game, there were many interesting odds for the fans before the match ended in a 2-2 stalemate.
Oliver continued: “I have watched it back so many times. I genuinely don’t think Pickford has done anything apart from trying 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 afterward 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.”
Van Dijk was only able to return to training in the gym in December, with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp revealing to the public, after suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Southampton on January 4, that Van Dijk still has a long way to go for a full recovery.
Speaking to the reporters, the German manager said: “It’s very good but still a long way to go, that’s [the deal with] this kind of injury. I’m happy when I see these videos [of Virgil training] because it just shows he makes good progress. But it will still take a lot of time, that’s how it is.
“I’d like to say something else but these are the facts, unfortunately.”
Liverpool will be hoping to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat in the Premier League at the hands of Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium, as they host Manchester United at Anfield. A battle of three points, that decides the leader of the league as both teams are tied with 33 points at the top of the table.