This weekend saw Liverpool beat Brighton 2-1 at Anfield, putting themselves 11 points clear at the top of the table ahead of Leicester City’s home tie with Everton. The Reds went ahead through two headed goals from Virgil van Dijk, assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold. The visitors clawed one back with just over 10 minutes remaining. There is no doubt that Martin Atkinson was to blame for the Brighton goal and, unfortunately, he is likely to feature in the midweek Merseyside Derby.
With about 15 minutes left in normal time, Alisson Becker charged out of his area and was sent off for handball, a fair decision. Adrian donned the gloves and stepped outside of his left post to organise the wall. As he was barking orders,Martin Atkinson blew for the free kick to be taken and Brighton got a goal back.
Whilst the referee is not obligated for a goalkeeper to set his wall up, there has to be a degree of common sense. Adrian has just arrived in the net for starters, secondly – the ref should hurry the keeper along if he feels he is taking too long. If the official can see that the goalie is not even in the goal, to blow for the free kick to be taken is essentially handing a goal to the taker.
Liverpool fans were understandably furious with the decision, particularly given Atkinson’s record in recent weeks; he cost us a win at Manchester United and ruled out Roberto Firmino’s goal at Aston Villa.
Sadly, there is no reprieve in sight – Atkinson, to blame for the Brighton goal, will be the video assistant referee for the Merseyside Derby on Wednesday.
With these derbies typically coming down to fine margins, there is likely to be a decision or two that is thrown to the VAR, Kopites will have no faith in Atkinson making the correct call either way. Surely he has to face a review in the near future.