Michael Oliver admits Jordan Pickford should have been sent off in Merseyside derby

We’ve all seen it a million times now. The challenge of the Merseyside Derby which excluded Virgil van Dijk for the remainder of the season.

Everton’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool in October was littered with controversy and moody challenges, but the incident that stirred the most anger was Jordan Pickford’s knee-high challenge against Van Dijk in the second half.

The keeper went unpunished after VAR uncovered a previous offside, sparking a furious debate among fans and pundits over whether he should have received his marching orders. But for the first time, Michael Oliver – the referee on the field of the day – shed light on the decision.

The arbiter believes Pickford did not intervene with the intention of causing harm, but knows that more thought should have been given to the challenge itself, rather than the surrounding circumstances. If that had happened, he says the outcome would have been different.

He told the print edition of The Mail on Sunday: “It was a big game. Both teams were flying. The assistant has given an offside and there is a delay in the flag like we have had this season. Jordan Pickford then goes out to Virgil.

“The original thought was that it can’t be a penalty if it’s offside, so we have to check the offside first. I think I told VAR that “if it’s not an offside, I will give a penalty”.

“I watched it so many times. I don’t think Pickford did anything other than try to spread, but he did it the wrong way, as the injury showed.

“We all, including myself, haven’t thought about the challenge as much as we should have. We could still have given an offside and fired Pickford. What surprised me afterwards was that nothing was expected on the pitch in terms of a red card, none of the players asked for it.

“We were too drawn into taking it step by step rather than thinking of the larger process, which considered the challenge itself and not just the fact that it cannot be a penalty. We should have started over with the offside, like we did, but with a different punishment for Jordan Pickford. “

Oliver, who is considered one of the Premier League’s best referees, has also been supportive of VAR and the use of technology in football, despite the constant criticism the system has faced.

Michael oliver
Oliver is considered one of the best referees in the Premier League | Pool / Getty Images

“I know VAR has become an obsession, but I’m for it,” he added. “There is all the clamor that this is a game changer. But if you threw it out tomorrow at noon, all you would hear all weekend would be people shouting “that would be a pen with VAR”. As soon as you moved it, people would want it back.

“At the end of the day, even with VAR, it’s still my decision. I am the one who makes the decision on the ground. And if I get it right the first time, there’s no reason VAR should get involved. Now that I can go there and watch on a fieldside monitor, you also have a second chance. You can change your mind or stick with it. “