Liverpool ran riot on Newcastle United at Anfield to kick off 2024 with a win, recording a record for expected goals in the Premier League since that stat began to be recorded and tallying up 34 shots with 62% possession.
Despite how lopsided things were on the pitch, though, the scoreline was close heading into the game’s closing stages and it took a Mohamed Salah penalty conversion to wrap things up for the Reds and secure a 4-2 win.
That penalty came in the 86th minute and, for many observers, was highly controversial as forward Diogo Jota skipped around goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, took a step, and then went down. Dubravka, though, says it was a penalty.
“My arms are not trying to catch him,” Dubravka said of the incident, which saw him make contact with Jota before the Liverpool player soon went to ground. “I don’t have to agree but at the end of the day it was a penalty.”
Contact, to be clear, was made. It also wasn’t a great deal of contact, and Jota went down after taking an additional step beyond the point of contact—something the job easy for anyone seeking to criticism him and Liverpool.
However, it’s worth noting had Jota stayed on his feet he appeared to have an open goal. The reason he went down, then, seems to have been based on a judgement that his stride was impeded—and the ball running away.
By that standard, as bad as the delayed reaction looked, there’s a solid case Dubravka’s touch turned things from a clear open goal to a situation where Jota might not have been able to catch up to the ball and get off a shot.
Had he stayed up and not scored, no call would have been made for the light but impactful contact. Not that that—or Liverpool’s unrelenting dominance—will likely be enough to sway those looking for an excuse to be critical.new