Michael Oliver in major U-turn as referee opens up on handling of Van Dijk incident

Pickford Van Dijk TEAMtalk

Referee Michael Oliver has admitted that he should have handed Jordan Pickford a punishment for his challenge on Virgil van Dijk.

The tackle, which left Van Dijk with a serious knee injury, became the flash point of October’s Merseyside derby.

Everton goalkeeper Pickford escaped any action, though; Oliver and the VAR team at Stockley Park noted that Liverpool‘s defender was offside in the build-up.

Speaking in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, however, Oliver has issued a climbdown over the incident.

“The thought initially was ‘it can’t be a penalty because it’s offside so we need to check the offside first,” he said.

“I think I said to the VAR, ‘if it’s not offside, I’m going to give a penalty.’

“I have watched it back so many times, I genuinely don’t think Pickford has done anything apart from try to spread himself but he did it the wrong way, as the injury has shown.

“We have all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as we should have done.”

Van Dijk underwent surgery on the injury shortly after the 2-2 draw and is progressing with long-term rehabilitation. However, the incident with Pickford proved to be one of a few controversial highlights of the match.

VAR later denied Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson an injury-time winner, with Sadio Mane offside. Meanwhile, Richarlison received a red card after a challenge which also left Thiago Alcantara with a serious knee injury.

Oliver ‘surprised’ at Van Dijk incident

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool

Oliver went on to explain what “surprised” him about the incident involving Pickford and Van Dijk.

“We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off,” the referee said.

“What I was surprised about looking at it afterwards was that nothing was expected on-field in terms of a red card. None of the players were asking for that.

“We got sucked too much into going step by step as opposed to thinking of the bigger process, which was considering the challenge as well and not just the fact that it can’t be a penalty.

“We should have restarted with the offside, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford.”

Concern immediately arose for Liverpool’s back line after Van Dijk’s injury. However, they have since lost both other senior centre-backs, with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip also out.

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