Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers treated the gathered masses to a barnstorming 2-2 draw in an FA Cup third-round tie fit for its Saturday night slot.
A blunder from Alisson gifted Wolves the lead before Darwin Nunez coolly volleyed in an equaliser on the cusp of half-time. The second half descended into a swamp of refereeing controversy, kickstarted by Mohamed Salah’s 53rd-minute finish which nudged Liverpool into a 2-1 lead.
Hwang Hee-chan equalised for the visitors but the officiating continued to draw scrutiny when Toti Gomes had a winner chalked off in the final ten minutes. If anything, the ruling out of Toti’s flick only raised more questions as to why Salah’s strike stood.
Here’s everything you need to know about Liverpool’s controversial second goal on a night riddled with VAR discussion.
On his debut for Liverpool, Cody Gakpo weaved in off the left flank, clipping a pass towards Wolves’ box. As Gakpo made contact with his delivery, Salah was offside. However, Wolves’ non-scorer Toti was deemed to have made a deliberate attempt to play the ball before it reached the Liverpool forward, spinning a weak header up rather than away. By intentionally intervening, Toti started a new phase of play and so Salah was now onside.
Dusting off the official FA rulebook, Law 11 reads: “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.
“A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area).”
Salah calmly and legally plucked the ball out of the sky, twisted towards goal and stuffed Liverpool into a 2-1 lead.
For once, the refereeing team didn’t come under fire for a controversial call that most of the public seemed to accept was technically correct. Instead, the ire of onlookers was directed at the establishment which agreed upon the law in the first place.
Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui naturally provided one of the most strident voices in opposition to the decision. “It is the same in all the leagues,” he said post-game. “My opinion is we have to talk a lot with the referees about this sort of situation.
“One player took advantage of his position, Salah was offside before Toti touched the ball, so he got an advantage. Toti, of course, is only going for it because of the offside player.”