Pickford AVOIDS retrospective ban for horror challenge on Van Dijk

Jordan Pickford escapes punishment ENTIRELY for his season-ending horror challenge on Virgil van Dijk after referee and VAR admit they DID see it – but didn’t deem it worthy of a red card

  • Virgil van Dijk is set to be ruled out for the rest of the season due to an ACL injury
  • The Liverpool defender was injured in a challenge with Everton’s Jordan Pickford
  • Pickford flew into Van Dijk after just six minutes of Saturday’s Merseyside derby 
  • He avoided a retrospective ban for the tackle as the referee saw the challenge

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has controversially avoided a retrospective ban from the Football Association for his horror tackle on Virgil van Dijk in Saturday’s Merseyside derby as referee Michael Oliver saw the incident. 

England No 1 Pickford has been widely condemned for the tackle which has almost certainly ruled Van Dijk out for the season after a scan at the weekend confirmed an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness described the goalkeeper’s challenge, which brought no punishment from the referee, as ‘assault’ while Ryan Mason and others slammed the tackle as a potential ‘career-ender’.   

 Jordan Pickford (bottom) avoided retrospective punishment for his tackle on Virgil van Dijk

Pickford’s challenge was said to have been checked by VAR and deemed not to be a red card

Michael Oliver (left) was the referee and David Coote (right) was the Video Assistant Referee and it was determined that they saw the incident between them and opted against a red card

It was confirmed on Monday morning that Pickford will not face no further punishment from the FA for the altercation in the first six minutes of Saturday’s derby.

It has been detailed that match officials, including the Video Assistant Referee David Coote, reviewed the incident in question at the time and determined that Liverpool were not awarded a penalty because Van Dijk was in an offside position. 

Coote is also said to have concluded that Pickford’s tackle did not meet the threshold for a red card and so no retrospective ban has since been issued. 

Van Dijk (right) was forced off the pitch by the tackle and now faces an extended spell out

Graeme Souness described the tackle as an ‘assault’ and also lambasted the officials’ actions

FA policy for retrospective bans extends only for red card offences that are not seen contemporaneously by match officials, including the VAR, and in this case the tackle in question was checked over in the moment of the game.

Van Dijk was taken to hospital for checks and Liverpool confirmed he will undergo surgery in what represents a devastating blow to their title defence. 

News of Pickford escaping a ban was met with disgust from supporters who hoped ‘justice’ would have been served given the long-term damage to Van Dijk.

One Twitter user wrote: ‘Absolutely shocking … clearly a reckless tackle by Pickford which endangered the opponent. How 2 referees missed it is laughable.’

Another added: ‘One of the worst decisions I think Ive ever seen in my life. What game are these guys watching to think that this isn’t a foul?’ 

An Arsenal fan felt that the correct decision has been taken given match officials witnessed the tackle.

‘Action should have been taken by VAR and the ref during the game,’ the user wrote. ‘After its [sic] been seen as not a red you can’t overturn. Feel bad for Liverpool fans but that’s the rules.’ 

A statement from Liverpool on Sunday revealed that ‘no specific timescale’ has been placed for Van Dijk’s return to action – although the severity of the setback has all but ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.

He has been an ever-present in Klopp’s side and his time on the sidelines has increased the need to bring in a defender in January. 

An injury to Van Dijk represents a huge blow for Jurgen Klopp’s hopes of retaining their title

Liverpool requested a review into the use of VAR after controversy in the Merseyside derby

Speaking after a frantic 2-2 draw, which saw Liverpool denied a last-minute Jordan Henderson winner by VAR, Klopp was left bemused at the tackle on Van Dijk.

‘It is not good,’ Klopp said before leaving Goodison Park. ‘Virg plays with pain and he never misses a game. 

‘I do not know what it is but it does not look good.’ 

Liverpool took the extraordinary step of demanding the Premier League explain the two hugely contentious VAR decisions which cost them victory after being left so agitated with the decision-making on Saturday.

As well as the Pickford challenge, Henderson’s disallowed winner proved highly contentious. 

Klopp said: ‘I come in the dressing room and people stand there with a laptop. And we watch the situation back and we don’t understand why this was offside.

Jordan Henderson (left) netted a late goal from a pullback but it was ruled out for offside 

A long VAR review chalked off the goal with Sadio Mane judged to have strayed narrowly off 

‘Since then I had 10 interviews and everyone tells me it was not offside and that doesn’t lift my mood obviously.

‘Look, I’m a real supporter of VAR but what you expect with offside is the right decision.’  

Henderson even suggested skulduggery with the application of the offside measuring tools, saying: ‘I think they bend the lines sometimes to make it offside. I’m not sure how they do it, I’ve seen it before.’

‘How’s that offside? Game’s gone mad,’ tweeted Cesc Fabregas. Ex-Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Sar posted: ‘This feels so not like football.’

Former Spurs and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas added: ‘That offside just doesn’t feel right. There just seems to be so much human error in this decision-making. Where do you draw the line?’ 

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