Premier League referee Michael Oliver regrets not sending off Pickford for his tackle on Virgil van Dijk

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Premier League referee Michael Oliver who officiated the league match between Liverpool and Everton on October 17, 2020, said he should have sent off Everton’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for his challenge on Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.

Recall that during the Merseyside derby which ended 2-2 at Goodison Park, Jordan Pickford made a harsh tackle on Virgil van Dijk in the early minutes of the match which resulted in a knee injury to the Liverpool’s defender.

Instead of the Premier League referee to award a red card to the English goalkeeper and award a penalty in favor of Liverpool, referee Michael Oliver followed the advice of the Video Assistant Referee to blow against Liverpool claiming that Van Dijk was offside before the tackle from the goalkeeper.

Unfortunately for Liverpool and the Netherlands international, the defender was taken to the hospital and had to undergo knee surgery. Since then, Liverpool have had to find a way to do without their best defender for over 19 games including Champions League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup matches.

Premier League referee Michael Oliver regrets not sending off Pickford for his tackle on Virgil van Dijk
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford challenge on Virgil van Dijk.

As the Premier League referee failed to show the goalkeeper a red card and award a spot-kick in favor of Liverpool, so did the Premier League and the English FA failed to punish Pickford after the game.

The Three Lion of England goalkeeper has continued to enjoy his season while Virgil van Dijk has continued to battle for full fitness since October. With such a huge impact the tackle made in the football career of the defender, the Premier League referee told Daily Mail that he and other officials of the match ought to have treated the challenge more seriously.

“We have all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as should have done. We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off”, the Premier League referee said.

“What I was surprised about looking at it afterward 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 it can’t be a penalty. We should have restarted with the offside, as we did, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford”.

Premier League referee Michael Oliver regrets not sending off Pickford for his tackle on Virgil van Dijk
Referee Michael Oliver during Everton vs Liverpool Premier League match.

On the debate about whether the VAR should be scrapped in the Premier League or not, the Premier League referee said the VAR has done more good than harm in the league. Hence, he argued that VAR should remain in use.

“I know VAR has become an obsession”, the referee noted. “But I am for it. There is all the clamor about it changing the game. But if you scrapped it tomorrow lunchtime, all you would hear all weekend would be people shouting ‘that would be a pen with VAR’. As soon as you moved it away, people would want it back.

“Ultimately, even with VAR, it’s still my decision. I’m the one who decides on the field. And if I get it right the first time around, there is no reason for VAR to get involved. Now that I can go and watch on a pitchside monitor, you’ve got a second chance, too. You can change your mind or stick with it.

“I think VAR’s helped the game. You are getting more fair decisions. You are getting the acceptance of players. If you go across to the monitor, there is more of an acceptance on-field because players are happy that at least two people have seen it. You have seen it live, someone else has seen pictures.

“It’s helped with the abuse we get, too. Players are not complaining persistently about decisions that happened 20 minutes ago. They are happy it’s been spotted, happy it’s been checked. They say what they think and then the world moves on.”

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