VAR controversy as Liverpool restore 13-point Premier League advantage with win over Wolves

Ibrahim Mustapha
Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) celebrates with Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (C) and Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson (R) after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England, on December 29, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Mane celebrates his goal with Virgil van Dijk (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Liverpool re-opened their thirteen point advantage at the top of the Premier League following a 1-0 win over Wolves, but the main talking point, once again, was the use of VAR which had a major say in the outcome of the match.

Sadio Mane scored the Reds only goal before half time after VAR intervened to overturn the decision of the referee who had ruled it out.

The visitors also had a would-be equaliser ruled out after VAR spotted an offside in the build-up.

Wolves rallied in the second half and come away from Anfield feeling somewhat aggrieved after a game many would suggest they didn’t deserve to lose.

Liverpool, as expected started brightly and should really have been in front after three minutes when man of the moment Trent Alexander-Arnold put in a teasing cross to Mohamed Salah but the Egyptian inexplicably fired over from six yards while most of Anfield were waiting for the net to bulge.

Of course, that wasn’t to be the last chance for the Reds. Georginio Wijnaldum then found the ball at his feet in the area but his shot also flew over the bar.

Firmino then had a go from the edge of the box but a deflection took the sting out of the shot, making for an easy catch for Patricio in the Wolves goal.

Salah then had another opportunity on the volley from the edge of the penalty area but again it was an easy save for Patricio.

Firmino then saw his header fly the wrong side of Patricio’s left hand post but a goal seemed inevitable.

As half time approached, it eventually arrived but not without controversy. Virgil van Djik’s long ball bounced off the shoulder of Adam Lallana before dropping at the feet of Mane who swept home first time.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Sadio Mane  of Liverpool  scores the opening goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on December 29, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Mane strikes to put Liverpool in front. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson (second left), Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino speak to Referee Anthony Taylor as he calls for VAR to check Sadio Mane's goal during the Premier League match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
Adam Lallana protests after Liverpool's opening goal is initially ruled out. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

However, referee Anthony Taylor and the Wolves players were convinced Lallana had used the upper part of his arm to redirect the ball and the goal was initially disallowed before a lengthy examination by VAR determined that the goal should stand.

Nuno and his team were left furious but that wasn’t to be the last of their frustrations with the system.

On the stroke of half time, the visitors thought they’d snatched an unlikely equaliser after Neto drilled the ball beyond Alisson from the edge of the penalty area.

However, once again, the goal was referred to the officials in Stockley park and following a forensic investigation, Joao Moutinho’s boot was deemed to be offside in the build-up by the smallest of margins.

As harsh as may have appeared, the decision was ultimately the correct one by the letter of the law and in keeping with a number of similar situations with the same outcome this season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Portuguese midfielder Pedro Neto (L) celebrates with team-mates after putting the ball in the Liverpool net, a goal that was subsequently ruled out by VAR due to an offside in the build up to it during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England, on December 29, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Neto's celebrations were cut short after VAR disallowed his goal for offside (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Players of Wolverhampton Wanderers surround Referee Anthony Taylor at half time after a VAR decision to disallow a goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield on December 29, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Wolves players surround Referee Anthony Taylor at half time. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

The second half saw Wolves present more of a threat with Neto again going close with a fierce drive wide across goal.

Liverpool had half-hearted appeals for a penalty after Mane went down under the challenge of Jonny but Taylor was unmoved.

Alisson was then forced into a save at his near post after Diogo Jota unleashed a powerful drive from an angle.

Liverpool then had an opportunity to kill the game as they came pouring forward on the counter but Firmino’s pass to Salah left the Egyptian with too much to do and Wolves were able to clear.

A great Wolves move late on fell to an unmarked Mourinho on the edge of the penalty area, but the midfielder was unable to control his volley and sent it high into the stands.

Romain Saïss found himself in a similar position a minute later but produced a similarly wild effort to his teammate.

In stoppage time, Adama Traore managed to find space outside the box to fire off a shot but a deflection took the ball wide.

For Wolves, the result is an unfortunate blow to their lofty ambitions of a top four finish but Jurgen Klopp’s side march on with another win to take them towards that elusive Premier League crown.

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