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Liverpool caught by late, late VAR penalty decision

Brighton 1 Liverpool 1

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Aaron Connolly is fouled by Neco Williams for a penalty which Brighton missed. Photo: PA

Aaron Connolly is fouled by Neco Williams for a penalty which Brighton missed. Photo: PA

Aaron Connolly is fouled by Neco Williams for a penalty which Brighton missed. Photo: PA

With 91 minutes on the clock Liverpool seemed to have done enough to return from the south coast with hinges creaking, parts falling off, but three points safely stowed away. An empty Amex Stadium on a sunny November lunchtime might seem one of football's friendlier away dates. But Jürgen Klopp's team were stretched to the limits and denied at the end by a penalty awarded by the VAR.

Was it a clear and obvious error? Is anything clear right now? Andy Robertson went to punt the ball away, but ended up kicking Danny Welbeck's foot as he nipped in. In slow motion it looked like a foul. Then again, the game is played at full speed and there was little Robertson could do to avoid making contact in what is, after all, a contact sport.

It wasn't so wrong as to be not right, and it wasn't so right as to be clearly not wrong. Welcome to football, 2020, the age of studied imperfection. As Graham Potter offered: "Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't." Which doesn't seem much different from where we started out.

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Liverpool's Sadio Mane heads into the Brighton net before it is ruled out for offside. Photo: PA

Liverpool's Sadio Mane heads into the Brighton net before it is ruled out for offside. Photo: PA

Liverpool's Sadio Mane heads into the Brighton net before it is ruled out for offside. Photo: PA

 

None of this should distract from the fact Brighton were bold in their attacking play and fully deserved a point. Neal Maupay missed a penalty in the first half. Welbeck gave a high-class performance of all-round centre forward-ship. Plus, the season is a slog right now. Victories will be wrung out in blood and twanging muscles, points will be dropped.

Much had been made in the build-up of Liverpool's heavy workload. Here they played a Saturday lunchtime game to follow a Wednesday night, although the early kick-off gave more recovery space for Tuesday's Champions League game. The real problem is structural: too much football, too little time.

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Brighton's Pascal Gross scores the equaliser from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters

Brighton's Pascal Gross scores the equaliser from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters

Brighton's Pascal Gross scores the equaliser from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters

 

Aaron Connolly gave Liverpool plenty of early problems but the Irish striker passed up a great chance with a casual finish, opening his body and curling a shot past the post when he needed to be merciless. Neco Williams, however, didn't take heed went to tackle with his left foot, reaching across Connolly as he ran in on goal and tripping his man. Maupay's kick was poor, side-footed past the post as Alisson dived the other way.

Liverpool had a goal disallowed for a VAR offside, Salah sprinting on to Roberto Firmino's pass, but dallying a few millimetres beyond the final man. It was so marginal as to seem both debatable and overly punitive. Later Salah seemed to rage at being taken off, which came four minutes after Liverpool had taken the lead on the hour. Salah who moved the ball to Diogo Jota. He feinted past a defender, took another step and then clipped a low shot into the corner. The goal was Jota's eighth in eight games for Liverpool.

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Liverpool's Diogo Jota scores his side's first goal. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Diogo Jota scores his side's first goal. Photo: Reuters

Liverpool's Diogo Jota scores his side's first goal. Photo: Reuters

 

Sadio Mané headed in from a free-kick but was ruled offside by VAR as Liverpool felt like the VAR gods were against them. The worst, however, was yet to come.

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