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What Darwin Nunez did at full-time tells real story after Liverpool heroes undone by outrageous VAR error



Verdict from Ian Doyle after Liverpool’s clash with Tottenham in the Premier League, which saw the Reds lose 2-1 after a last-minute Joel Matip own-goal and Luis Diaz goal that PGMOL admit was wrongly ruled out by VAR

Alisson Becker raced from his goal and grabbed the crestfallen Joel Matip before vigorously embracing his Liverpool team-mate.

An exhausted Virgil van Dijk slumped to his haunches, as all around the pitch the Reds players looked to the heavens in sheer disbelief. And on the touchline, Jurgen Klopp stood open-mouthed, almost unable to comprehend the remarkable end to a hugely contentious evening.

The scoreline will indicate Liverpool missed an opportunity to move to the top of the Premier League table by having their proud 19-game unbeaten run ended by Matip’s last-gasp own goal.

But this was a game which will resonate – for reasons good and bad – long after the Tottenham Hotspur celebrations have dissipated.

And the actions of Darwin Nunez after the final whistle spoke volumes, the striker – who was a non-playing substitute – going over to salute the travelling support before later posting on social media a defiant message stating: “Come on Liverpool, we are together and against everyone.”

Certainly, there was sufficient reason for the Reds to feel aggrieved, here reduced first to 10 men on 26 minutes when Curtis Jones was contentiously dismissed after a VAR check by referee Simon Hooper for a challenge on Yves Bissouma.

Jones’ foot struck the ball first which then diverted it on to the Tottenham midfielder’s shin. That, though, was sufficient for him to see red, joined midway through the second half by substitute Diogo Jota for two bookable offences.

Liverpool had four red cards in almost five years before the start of this season. They’ve already been shown as many in the first seven Premier League games of the campaign.

While there is no conspiracy against Liverpool among officials – their main crime is simply not being very good – the authorities at times don’t help themselves, such as the first-half decision to chalk off a Luis Diaz strike for offside with the game still goalless.

It appeared onside to the naked eye, which was backed up by replays. VAR, however, swiftly agreed with the initial flag from the assistant referee. The subsequent long, painful silence when clarification was sought for the ruling only heightened suspicions later confirmed that a mistake had been made. Not that it offers much consolation.

Beyond dispute, though, was how well Liverpool played, regardless of the number of players they had on the pitch. The Reds were superb in the way they weathered an early Tottenham storm, showed their own attacking threat, and continued to pose problems despite their numerical disadvantage while defending superbly.

There were heroes across the pitch, Dominik Szoboszlai once again assuming extra midfield responsibility while Matip, Van Dijk and Gomez excelled at the back. And when Tottenham did get through, Alisson was superb.

Imagine what Liverpool can achieve when they have a full complement of players on the pitch. Nobody who watched this encounter will believe an improving Tottenham are better placed than Liverpool to challenge at the very least for a top-four berth.

But the setbacks continued, Cody Gakpo suffering a worrying injury that forced him off before half-time, although not before he’d scored for a second time inside a week.

Gakpo had the game’s first opportunity after 14 minutes, drawing a save from Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario from Andy Robertson’s pass after Diaz had been found by Szoboszlai. From the rebound, Vicario denied Robertson is similar fashion.

Jones then had a shot deflected behind by Pape Matar Sarr as Liverpool began to find space down the inside right channel of the Tottenham defence, only for their gameplan and, at least temporarily, composure to be undone by the midfielder’s dismissal.

Alisson claimed a James Maddison effort from range and the unmarked Richarlison blazed wildly over before, on 36 minutes, the latter got in behind Gomez and crossed low for Heung-Min Son to bundle in from close range.

Liverpool, though, were level in the fourth minute of additional time at the end of the half. Another Szoboszlai searching diagonal provided the spark, his long pass headed down by Van Dijk in to Gakpo who, eight yards out, controlled on his chest and then swivelled a shot in beyond Vicario.

Tottenham began the second half strongly with Alisson required to make excellent saves from Maddison and Son. But the longer the game progressed, the more clueless the home side appeared against a well-organised Liverpool rearguard in which Matip and Van Dijk excelled.

However, the Reds’ job became even more difficult on 69 minutes when Jota, a half-time replacement for the stricken Gakpo, was dismissed for two yellow cards inside 60 seconds on Destiny Udogie. The first was almost comical as the Tottenham defender appeared to trip himself up, but that couldn’t excuse Jota moments later stupidly stretching for the ball and then catching the same player.

But with Tottenham wasting a relentless succession of corners, Liverpool were keeping the hosts at arm’s length until the final of six minutes’ additional time when Pedro Porro’s low cross from the right bobbled up at the moment Matip attempted to clear and the ball smashed into the top corner.

Tottenham, having been beaten in the last minute at Anfield last season, celebrated as though the Premier League title had been claimed there and then.

This will be a difficult one for Liverpool to take. But the reality is, even in defeat, this Klopp side are demonstrating they are the real deal. It just won’t feel like that right now.

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