A livid Patrick Vieira was unsparing in his criticism of the referee, Kevin Friend, and VAR after his Crystal Palace side were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool. Vieira said Friend had been “naive” in awarding a penalty to Diogo Jota late in the game, a decision that he said “took our hope away”.
At the time Palace were 2-1 down and pushing hard for an equaliser that would have changed the complexion of the title race. As it is, Liverpool are now just nine points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.
Vieira was also displeased at Liverpool’s second goal, awarded after Friend adjudged that Roberto Firmino was in an offside position but not interfering with play. But it was the late penalty decision that proved most controversial, with multiple replays appearing to show that Jota had changed the direction of his run in order to engineer contact with the goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita. After consulting the monitor, Friend decided to give the penalty.
“I don’t even want to talk about it,” Vieira said after the game, before going on to talk about it at some considerable length.
“That was a really poor decision from the referee. I looked at it from every angle and I still don’t understand how that can be a penalty. In meetings with the referees they explained to coaches that contact is part of the game, and if there is not obvious contact there is not going to be a penalty.
“Here, there was no way Jota – who I believe was really smart, and the referee quite naive – could get the ball back and try to score. That decision took our hope away of getting back into the game and getting a point.”
Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, claimed not to have watched the incident back. “But I don’t think I have to because we thought it was [a penalty] and the referee did. The Crystal Palace people did not, which I understand. I can’t say anything about it.
“It was a big three points for us. The first 35 minutes was some of the best stuff we’d played this season. You could see how good we can be. Someone should have a proper explanation of what happened after. I don’t understand it 100%. In the second half we were not compact. We became sloppy in the last line. All their chances were set up by us, pretty much. We wanted a little break on the pitch, but that was not possible.”