THE BIG DEBATE: The Manchester City manager hit out at referee Anthony Taylor and suggested that the Anfield crowd influenced his decision to disallow a Phil Foden goal.
Pep Guardiola was not a happy man after Manchester City’s defeat at Anfield.
The City boss, along with his midfielder Bernardo Silva, had plenty to say after a fiery contest ended 1-0 in favour of the hosts thanks to a fine Mo Salah strike 14 minutes from time.
That only told half the story though.
City had a goal disallowed by VAR after Erling Haaland was judged to have fouled Fabinho in the build-up, and then after the Liverpool goal Jurgen Klopp was sent off for protesting against what he saw as a foul by Bernardo on Salah, which wasn’t given.
Guardiola fumed at referee Anthony Taylor, and claimed that the Anfield crowd had an influence on the VAR decision after the on-pitch official had let several fouls go during the game.
“This is Anfield,” he said.
The referee spoke with my assistant coaches and said: ‘I’m not going to make fouls and I will be clear.’ All game it was play on and play on and play on. Except the goal [for Foden].
Guardiola was left fuming with the decisions
Guardiola was left fuming with the decisions ( Image: AFP via Getty Images)
“The ref can decide: ‘I’m going to whistle all the actions,’ but he decided not to do it and then after he did it. When we scored a goal it was not play on. This is the reality.”
So has Guardiola got a point? Did the Anfield crowd influence matters and should the VAR call have gone along with the apparent spirit of the game?
DO us a favour, Pep – climb down off your high horse.
Loads of clubs, big and small, feel they are short-changed at Anfield. Frank Lampard, for example, was fined £30,000 for some pointed remarks after the Merseyside derby last season.
And guess what? Loads of clubs, big and small, feel they are short-changed at the Etihad, too.
The blessed Pep wasn’t complaining too loudly when Sadio Mane was shown a contentious straight red card after colliding with Ederson in 2017, and City went on to win 5-0, was he?
Does he honestly think Mane would have been sent off if the same incident had happened at Anfield?
No chance. It’s called home advantage – that unwritten law where, sub-consciously, referees often gave the benefit of the doubt to the home side, especially the big clubs. It happens, deal with it.
Let’s call out the real villains of the piece – the morons who threw coins at Guardiola and the away fans’ shameless, obnoxious chants about “murderers” and “always the victims.”
If Pep Guardiola was making a broader point that a crowd as passionate and as loud and as vociferous as the one that normally gets into Anfield can influence referees then fair enough.
And, by the way, if he was to suggest Jurgen Klopp sometimes gets away with murder on the Anfield touchline then, also, fair enough.
But Anfield had nothing to do with Phil Foden’s goal being disallowed, Anfield had nothing to do with Manchester City being beaten on Sunday.
The City goal was ruled out because there was a clear offence in the immediate build-up which became evident to VAR on replay.
That is what the system is there for.
Had Liverpool scored that goal and it had been allowed, Pep would have been fuming.
Unusually, Guardiola got a couple of things wrong and, unusually, his team were not as clinically brilliant as they normally are.
His bitterness afterwards was just sour grapes.
If you believe the moon landings were faked, then, yes, Pep Guardiola has a point when he moans about the Anfield factor.
Before the introduction of VAR, officials might have been influenced by the bear-pit atmosphere generated by home fans at Anfield or Old Trafford, but that element has now been removed.
Is Guardiola seriously suggesting that VAR Darren England was influenced by Liverpool’s protests from 200 miles away in Stockley Park?
England’s job was to calming review Manchester City’s disallowed goal away from such influences and he correctly ruled that Erling Haaland pulled Fabinho over in the build-up.
If anything, VAR, so often maligned, should be applauded for getting a huge call right.
The officials could hardly be accused of favouring Liverpool when Rodri was not penalised for his challenge on Mohamed Salah or Bernardo Silva for his on Salah, which caused Jurgen Klopp to blow his top.
There was a distinct whiff of sour grapes about Guardiola’s gripe, perhaps because he knows deep down City lost because of Joao Cancelo’s mistake and his formation change.
There are those who often like to sneer and roll their eyes at the apparent mythologising of Anfield, but they overlook an important point.
If you’re Liverpool, it works.
Time and again opposition players and managers tie themselves up in knots and fail to perform at their optimum because they are so worried about the environment around them, and then that in turn inspires the Liverpool players to perform better, something which can also be dismissed when assessing just what is going on.
Jurgen Klopp’s side needed a result to feel better about themselves on Sunday, and the fans were going to encourage them to get just that.
The way Anthony Taylor refereed the game also added to the sense that this was a win at all costs day, and a backs against the wall performance against opponents Liverpool can’t quite go toe-to-toe with at the moment.
Viewing all this, Pep Guardiola made confusing tactical decisions and played some of the most in-form players in the world right now out of their natural positions.
It’s no wonder he ended up moaning about a perfectly valid VAR decision, one that should have been given by Taylor initially.
He wanted to take the attention away from a bad day at the office for him.
Guardiola was understandably and, depending on what side on the fence you’re on, perhaps rightly fuming by Foden’s disallowed goal.
Bernardo Silva’s comments were fair, if the referee let so much go, then he should’ve stuck with his stance despite it leading to a goal.
It comes to a wider problem though, which is City feeling hard done by at Anfield and that belief is not entirely misplaced. In short, the influence of 50,000 Merseysiders certainly does make a difference.
To say it is the new Old Trafford would be a tad extreme, but the VAR issues back in November 2019 and the decision to, somehow, not send James Milner off in last season’s clash clearly linger with those at City.
The emotion certainly comes out when these two sides meet and Guardiola made his feelings known when quizzed on his side’s disallowed goal, simply claiming: “This is Anfield”.