‘Ghost referee’ – unprecedented moment that explains why Liverpool won’t accept excuses

Referee Simon Hooper, who was the man in the middle during the Tottenham vs Liverpool match on Saturday. 

When José Mourinho recalls the 2005 Champions League semi-final, he fondly recalls the night he ‘lost 0-0’ after Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ was controversially awarded .

Jurgen Klopp will feel emboldened by pointing to “the 2-2 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur” in September 2023 after his regrettable failure to apply the Laws of the Game.

Or a certain law of the game. Quite an important game in which a team scores a goal, a The referee awards it and the opposing team kicks off.

VAR officials Simon Hooper, Darren England and Dan Cook probably thought things were going well until they stumbled at the final hurdle.

“Um… Simon… I think you missed something” or some variation thereof will make for some gripping and darkly comic listening when the Var audio surrounding Luis Diaz’s offside “goal” is released.

Liverpool had the weight of public opinion behind them for 24 hours, while neutrals viewed the incident with disbelief and more attention than those engaged in it at the time.

Then the Merseyside club issued a statement on Sunday, someone mentioned the ‘R’ word, and all roads led to Damascus for those who concluded that the officials’ criticism had gone too far and that any talk of a repetition was to be ridiculed.

Those berating Liverpool’s strong condemnation have much in common with Klopp at full time on Saturday night. They are missing a point.

Liverpool’s statement does not invite the Premier League to call for the result to be annulled, although the ambiguity of the phrase “exploring a range of options” certainly encourages a debate about where this should and will lead.

There was a long discussion about whether the club should say anything on Sunday. At first they were reluctant.

Their anger grew as the day went on and they eventually felt compelled to speak out, especially when they learned about England and Cook’s flight to and from the United Arab Emirates 48 hours before the match and the deeply disturbing questions which he raised.

Liverpool aim to fully understand how such a monumental breakdown could have occurred in a match of such importance and are determined to force the release of the offending audio to ensure no other team suffers from a such blatant incompetence.

Liverpool are now seeking talks between on-field referee Hooper and England’s Var, with a subpoena persisting for Richard Nixon to leave his Oval Office while he mulls over Watergate.

PGMOL boss Howard Webb has no choice but to give in as Liverpool wait for a report. Once the level of incompetence is determined, Liverpool will decide on possible next steps, if any.

We already know the tape will reveal how England thought they told Hooper a goal had been legally scored, initially believing it had been awarded, only to later discover it hadn’t been recorded on the score sheet match.

In arguably the most damaging mistake of all, we witnessed the “phantom referee” rather than a “phantom goal”, as an incinerated Hooper froze and decided it was too late to do anything about it.

There is no logic for Hooper, England, Cook, Webb or anyone else to say that nothing can be done once the game is restarted.

If Hooper had stopped the play and explained the situation to both coaches, he might have advised the Spurs to allow Diaz to continue unchallenged and correct the mistake.

Spurs would have another hour to overturn a 1-0 deficit against 10 men. More importantly, the integrity of the result would remain unaltered.

Instead, the Premier League finds itself in uncharted territory. Never before has an official given a goal without it appearing on the scoreboard.

You can make as many lists as tribalism sees fit, terrible offside calls, missed handballs, goals not awarded when the ball has clearly crossed the line, or goals awarded when no one can be sure ‘they were.

Football is full of such perceived sporting injustices.
What you won’t find in English football history is a team being awarded a goal but the score remaining unchanged.

It is not a question of subjectivity, or of interpretation of laws, or of a controversial decision that is discussed in pubs as “one of those things”.

How would such an argument unfold?
“That offside by Diaz? I saw them. No, it was actually given. To be honest, I’ve never seen this before.

This is truly unprecedented; Black and white; a factual, objective, concrete and provable truth. Liverpool scored a goal. The Var existed.

The referee was informed of this. PGMOL knew about it – although we’ll have to wait and see exactly when – and now the Premier League must deal with it, with the timing of the dispute potentially depending on whether Klopp’s new-look team is as good as she looks like it.

The first two months of the season. It could have profound implications if this year’s title race resembles that of 2018-’19 and 2021-’22.

That experience features in all of Liverpool’s statements on Sunday, without being mentioned at all.

Both times, Liverpool lost the title on the final day by one point to a club owned by the UAE capital.

A repeat in 2024, or even if Klopp’s team miss out on the Champions League by such a margin – or Spurs deserve it by two points – will invite more recriminations.

It’s no wonder Liverpool are unwilling to accept apologies and move on meekly. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to replay the match, but the least every club and fan deserves is not to relive such a total farce.

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