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Golazos, penalty controversies leave Liverpool, Tottenham all square

On a list of the 32 outfield players who could have scored the decisive goal of Sunday’s showdown between Tottenham and Liverpool, Victor Wanyama would have been pretty darn close to the bottom.

On that same list, Mo Salah would have been No. 2. And both, at different points during a 15-minute roller coaster ride at Anfield, appeared to have won – or drawn – the day.

Yet neither produced the moment that ultimately decided a wild 2-2 draw at Anfield. Referees did.

That’s not to say they were correct or incorrect. But head referee John Moss and his assistant awarded Tottenham two penalties in the final 10 minutes and stoppage time, both after discussions between the two in front of howling Liverpool fans. Harry Kane missed the first, but made the second in the 95th minute to cancel out Salah’s brilliant goal minutes earlier.

Moss had waved away appeals after Eric Lamela’s penalty box tumble, only to realize that his assistant’s flag was in the air. To the astonishment and fury of Anfield, Moss pulled play back and belatedly pointed to the spot.

Replays showed he was correct to do so. Virgil van Dijk had taken a wild, clumsy swing at a bouncing ball, and had instead connected with Lamela’s leg and/or backside. Kane stepped up to the spot, and this time made no mistake.

Less than 10 minutes earlier, he had been turned away by Loris Karius from the same position, that time with the game tied at 1-1. But he shouldn’t have had the chance to give Spurs a lead in the first place.

Kane was fouled by Karius after Dejan Lovren swung and essentially missed at a simple clearance. However, replays showed that the English striker was in an offside position when the initial ball was played. The assistant referee left his flag down, even after a long discussion with Moss. He shouldn’t have.

“It was clear offside,” Jurgen Klopp said after the match. “Unbelievable. I don’t know what they were discussing, to be honest.

In the end, 2-2 was probably a fair result. But the scoreline doesn’t do the game justice.

Salah had put Liverpool up inside three minutes after an Eric Dier mistake. For much of the 90, the Reds looked strong enough to hold on for a 1-0 victory. They eased off the gas pedal, but were relatively secure at the back, save for one Heung-Min Son chance.

Then things kicked off with a little over 10 minutes remaining. Wanyama sent a bullet of a shot flying past Karius into the top corner to level the score:

In the 87th minute, Lovren’s mistake appeared to have doomed Liverpool. But Kane’s miss, coupled with Salah’s magic, turned the game on its head and then back upright again. In another version of the same story, the score would have been 2-1 Tottenham. Instead, it was 2-1 Liverpool. Salah’s dexterous, Lionel Messi-esque clip looked to have been a memorable winner.

But Liverpool’s shoddy defense had the final say. Van Dijk, rather than curing it, is now contributing to it. He was at fault at Swansea, and again here.

The focus will be on the referees. As Anfield drowned all other noise out with boos at the final whistle, Liverpool players surround them. Klopp, fuming, made a beeline for them, despite Mauricio Pochettino’s attempts to usher him away. “The result was massively influenced by linesman decisions,” Klopp said.

But the first decision, because of Kane’s miss, proved inconsequential. In discussions of the second, Klopp and others will point out that Lamela went down easily. But he was quite clearly kicked in the back of the leg. It was a penalty. The linesman actually deserves praise for spotting it.

The referees are, and will be, the talking point. They were the reason a frantic game of football ended as it did. But they weren’t the reason Liverpool dropped two points.


Mo Salah celebrates his early goal for Liverpool against Tottenham at Anfield. (Getty)

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.