Saturday’s match against Liverpool was a nail-biting experience for Chelsea fans. The Blues started the match quite well, although the Anfield crowd tried to throw off the players with chants and boos. Liverpool was equally good in the first half and both the teams had quite a few chances to put the ball in the back of the net. For the Reds, the best chance of the half came when Jordan Henderson was through on goal but couldn’t connect the ball properly with his weaker foot. For Chelsea, it was when Kai Havertz scored with a looping backwards header from a corner. However, everything changed for the Blues shortly before halftime.
The Reds were pushing for an equalizer before the interval and they found themselves scrambling about in the box when Edouard Mendy and Marcos Alonso had a confusing moment from a corner delivery. Both players tried to get the ball, but it ended back with a Liverpool player, who shot it from close distance only to hit Reece James on the line. There were claims of a handball and after a “check” from the VAR, it was confirmed that the ball struck James on the thigh and then rolled up to his arm. While that is understandably a penalty—had the ball not struck James on the arm, it would be going in—but when Anthony Taylor pulled out the red card, everyone was shocked.
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Liverpool vs Chelsea was a cracking game for the first half until Reece James was shown a controversial red card for a handball by Anthony Taylor
The referee had a look on the VAR screen and straight away pointed to the spot. After that, he sent off James, as he claimed that it was a deliberate handball. This decision was absurd as the ball clearly struck James on the thigh first. What was even worse was that Taylor simply looked at a still image of the ball hitting James’ hand and based his decision on that. When referees have the tools to play the video back and see the whole incident, it is quite baffling why Taylor made such a quick decision. Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp both admitted that the decision was a bit too harsh.
In the post-game interview, the Chelsea boss said this:
“I can understand the decision and I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I did not like the way the referee checked it because for me he checked only the image and the image showed the contact. I would have wished for a longer consultation – maybe he would have made the same decision. But we have to live with it.”
Even though Klopp should have been happier with the decision, he agreed with Tuchel and said that the game was ruined because of the red card. He also expressed that the double punishment was a bit too harsh. He said this in the post-game interview:
“I never liked double punishment but if somebody ever listened to me about rule changes or rules, a lot of things would look completely different. It was absolutely harsh. Spoils the game? Yeah probably. It changed everything, I liked our first half, we were really good, caused Chelsea a lot of problems. It was an incredible intense game from Chelsea as well.”
It is not often that you get to see both managers in agreement and it is usually one manager complaining about the officials, while the other praises their decisions. However, this time, the feeling was mutual. It was definitely harsh to send James off for an accidental handball. VAR has definitely helped the game of football, and it makes the games a lot fairer, but there are still instances when the officials do not make good use of the technology. This ends up with one team suffering a lot.
Do you think it was fair to send off James for handball? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!