Thursday, June 1, 2023

Arsenal unseen footage shows Virgil van Dijk’s penalty plan backfired spectacularly
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The fallout from Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Liverpool continues as the penalty decision remains up for debate.

Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot after Thiago Alcantara was adjudged to have fouled Gabriel Jesus in the area. Bukayo Saka stepped up to convert his second goal of the afternoon, ensuring the Gunners came out on top in a thriller at the Emirates Stadium.

However, whilst those on VAR duty – Darren England and Edward Stuart – agreed with the on-field referee, not everyone was convinced the correct decision was made. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp didn’t share the same opinion and nor did former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher.

“I think it raises two issues,” he said when speaking on Sky Sports. “The first, for me, it’s not inline with what we’ve seen this season. They’ve raised the threshold, and there’s more physical contact. Without a doubt, he doesn’t play the ball, and there is contact but is it enough to give a penalty? I think not.

“The problem is when it’s thrown to the VAR. Michael [Oliver] will say, in my view, he hasn’t got the ball – which he hasn’t – in my opinion, he’s touched the player and made the contact which he has. There’s no evidence to say the referee hasn’t made the correct decision, so the VAR should stay out so it will always default to the referee’s decision.”

Fortunately for Arsenal, the decision stood, and Saka once again showed great character to take the penalty. It was just last summer when the 21-year-old saw his decisive spot-kick saved by Gianluigi Donnaruma in the Euro 2020 final, but he’s now been successful with attempts against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.

The latest of which occurred despite the best efforts of Virgil van Dijk to put him off. As spotted by some eagle-eyed Gunners supporters on social media, the defender appeared to make a movement towards Saka – presumably to knock the ball out of his grasp – as the forward moved towards the spot.

However, that plan of action backfired spectacularly in the Liverpool defender’s face as Gabriel Martinelli intervened at the crucial moment to push him away before Saka converted the penalty.

Speaking after the match, Mikel Arteta heaped praise on the Arsenal no.7 for taking the spot-kick, recalling the journey the winger has been on since missing for England. “Yeah, that was a difficult moment. That was an incredible learning curve for him in his career,” the Spaniard told reporters.

“That’s the way he took it. Everybody around him helped to do that, starting with the England national team with Gareth [Southgate] and everybody and how supportive they were. The boy didn’t hesitate to continue because he believes he can take them, and under pressure, he really enjoys that responsibility.”

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