Referees’ chief Howard Webb says Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty during their 1-1 draw against Arsenal for a handball from Martin Odegaard last month.
The points were shared at Anfield as Mohamed Salah cancelled out Gabriel Magalhaes’ early opener and the first-half incident involving Odegaard proved hugely contentious, with Jurgen Klopp left bemused by the decision.
It proved decisive as the result saw Mikel Arteta’s Gunners – last year’s runners-up in the Premier League – take the top spot at Christmas.
Replays on the day showed Odegaard slip and handle the ball after a deft touch from Salah, but referee Chris Kavanagh opted against handing the hosts a spot-kick before the video assistant checked and confirmed the decision.
Now, the Match Officials Mic’d Up show has released audio of the VAR process from the heavyweight clash on December 23, with Kavanagh heard saying: “No, his hand’s on the floor,’ as Liverpool’s players appealed for penalty.
But former Premier League referee Webb – who took charge of the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010 – believes Arsenal captain Odegaard gained a ‘huge advantage’ and, ultimately, the wrong call was made.
‘The referee on the field recognised that Odegaard had slipped and saw his arm go towards the ground,’ the PGMOL chief said.
‘This is not just Odegaard accidentally falling on to the ball. He does slip, his arm does go out, but he actually pulls his arm back in towards his body, which is when the ball makes contact with the arm.
‘The VAR looked at that aspect. He felt it was a case of Odegaard trying to make himself actually smaller by bringing the arm back towards the body. That is the element that’s important here.
‘Whether it’s instinctive or deliberate, he gets a huge advantage by bringing the arm back towards the ball. All the feedback we got afterwards was very clear.
‘This is one that didn’t reach the right outcome on that basis.’
At the time, ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said his former club should have been handed a spot-kick and felt Odegaard was extremely lucky not to have been pulled up.
‘I think it was a penalty for Liverpool,’ Carragher said while on commentary duty for Sky Sports.
‘He was very fortunate, Odegaard. When the ref doesn’t give it, the VAR is very unlikely to change the decision.’
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