The decision to drop referee Kevin Friend after he gave Liverpool a controversial penalty against Crystal Palace is “laughable”, according to former Premier League striker Kevin Phillips.
Liverpool beat the Eagles 3-1 on January 23 at Selhurst Park as they recorded their second straight Premier League win to move nine points behind leaders Manchester City.
Odsonne Edouard’s 55th-minute tap-in had given Palace hope of taking points off Jurgen Klopp’s side, who started brilliantly in south London and scored twice in the first half through Virgil Van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
A grandstand finish had been set up at Selhurst Park after Palace pulled one back but an innocuous coming together between Diogo Jota and Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita saw the Reds awarded a spot-kick, which Fabinho dispatched to put the game to bed a minute from time.
Referee on the day, Friend, decided not to award a penalty initially before he changed his mind after VAR official Craig Pawson had advised him to watch a replay of the incident on the monitor.
Friend has been taken off Premier League duty for the next round of fixtures and will instead referee Cardiff City’s Championship match with Peterborough United.
And Phillips, who once scored 30 Premier League goals in one season for Sunderland, thinks the decision to punish Friend and not Pawson is “ludicrous”.
Phillips told Football Insider: “It just makes it even more of a farce.
“Some of the times it has been VAR and some of the decisions have been ludicrous. This, for me, is in that kind of mould.
“How can you punish someone who was actually physically there and was asking for a second opinion? Then they don’t punish the guy behind (VAR)?
“It’s just another laughable situation. I don’t know what the suggestion is really. If you’re going to punish one, you’ve got to punish both. It’s as simple as that.
“It’s another laughable decision.”
Speaking after the incident, Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira said: “I think we give ourselves the best chance to get something from the game but obviously that decision by the referee took our hope away, that poor decision from the referee took our hope away.
“The reason is having those meetings with the referee and explaining to coaches that contact is part of the game, so that if there is a situation like that and there is not an obvious contact, there will not be a penalty.
“This one here and when you look at the situation with Jota, who I believe was really quite smart, but at the same the referee was naive or the VAR I should say was naive.
“There is no way that Jota could get the ball back and score or that Vince tried to stop. There is no way Vince and Jota cannot have contact because of the situation they were in.”
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