Referee explains why Joe Gomez high kick in Liverpool vs Tottenham wasn't penalty

Joe Gomez of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on May 05, 2024 in Liverpool, England.

Liverpool just about emerged from the Tottenham game with a 'comfortable victory' narrative intact. Having gone four goals ahead, Tottenham's double could be attributed to the host taking its foot off the gas after a number of changes, and Jürgen Klopp was able to celebrate a long-awaited return to a truly recognizable brand of football.

However, a third Spurs goal would have made things really uncomfortable. And while Liverpool certainly had chances of its own to re-extend the lead, Tottenham fans felt aggrieved that referee Paul Tierney did not point to the spot following a challenge by Joe Gomez on Brennan Johnson.

Over the years, Klopp has had plenty of run-ins with Tierney, who certainly could never be accused of a pro-Liverpool bias. But certain Tottenham players felt that Gomez had gone in high on Johnson, whose head did make contact with the defender's boot, before the momentum of the Spurs man also saw him collide with the post.

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In fairness, the appeal was muted on the field, with the outrage primarily coming after the fact. That's often a sign that the officials have reached the outcome that the game 'expects', regularly cited as a guideline for VAR interventions.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Dermot Gallagher has explained why both Tierney and the VAR officials ultimately decided against awarding a penalty. He believes the right outcome was reached.

"Difficult to give a penalty when a player clearly gets the ball first," Gallagher explained. "But massive risk making a challenge like this, because if he makes contact with the player before the ball, it's certainly going to be a penalty — because of how high his boot's going to be.

"But without doubt he does get the ball. So I think on that occasion, he will probably say it's great defending. Massive risk, but a risk that was worth taking in the end, because it wasn't a foul to give [away] a penalty."

The rest of the Ref Watch panel agreed with Gallagher. Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with other high-foot incidents, such as the Jérémy Doku and Alexis Mac Allister incident, but it seems fairly clear that this was good defending by Gomez, not an infringement. says: There's no inconsistency in feeling Mac Allister should have had a penalty but also that Gomez was correctly not punished. In reality, the incidents are like chalk and cheese.

Where Doku kicked into the chest of Mac Allister, Gomez was stretching to clear a bouncing ball and Johnson moved 'into his space'. The VAR erroneously described the Man City incident in those same terms, but it's actually applicable here.

At the same time, it's hard to deny that Gomez was taking a chance. With the situations reversed, you'd at least be asking the penalty question, and that could have made the final few minutes very uncomfortable indeed.