Liverpool lost 3-2 to Toulouse in the Europa League, but were furious that a late equaliser was ruled out for a handball in the build-up.

Jarell Quansah put the ball in the back of the net with about a minute remaining of the Group E tie. The goal would have sealed Liverpool’s comeback, having been 2-0 down and then 3-1 down. However, after being called over to the pitchside monitor, referee Georgi Kabakov ruled the goal out on the basis that Alexis Mac Allister had handled the ball 13 seconds earlier, in the build-up. 

Although the handball itself was not a contentious call, there is debate about whether it occurred to early for the equaliser to have been dismissed.

What the rules say 

The Var protocol published by Ifab, the organisation who write the rules of football, states that a goal can be ruled out if a ‘clear and obvious’ error was missed in the build-up. There is no specific definition for what constitutes a ‘clear and obvious error’, nor when the ‘build-up’ to a goal starts. 

The guidance states: “The referee’s original decision will not be changed unless there was a ‘clear and obvious error’ (this includes any decision made by the referee based on information from another match official e.g. offside).”

The guidance goes on to explain that a goal can be ruled out for an “attacking team offence in the build-up to or scoring of the goal (handball, foul, offside etc.)”

Mac Allister’s handball – what the pundits said

Keith Hackett, former referee

“Thirteen seconds between the handball the the goal is too long for the referee to be going back to check. Var interventions like this lack credibility and undermine people’s confidence in the system. It’s clear that Ifab need to issue much clearer guidance on clear and obvious errors and on how much of the build-up to a goal a Var check can examine.

Joe Cole – ‘The ref got it right’

“I think it was a handball. It was a strange situation because we were all wondering what was going to be the decision given the handball happened quite a while before the goal went in, but the ref got it right. Much to the dismay and frustration of Liverpool fans and players, it was the right call.”

Steve McManaman – ‘Re-reffing the game’

“This was seven or eight movements before the goal even happened. He’s given handball! What on earth. Talking about re-reffing the game. Chest onto the arm but then the game carries on and there’s a thousand things that happen after that. Astounded by that. This reffing in Europe has not been seen in its greatest light over these last couple of days at all. 

“I get if it’s handball then right into the back of the net but the referee has just missed it and the game carries on and a thousand things happen.”

Rachel Brown-Finnis – ‘Rightly ruled out’

A great finish by Quansah who thought he had equalised but I think it was rightly ruled out in the end.

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