The VAR Review: Why Van Dijk’s first goal was disallowed for Liverpool in the carabao cup final

Despite canceling out a cleanly worked-out goal by Virgil Van Dijk, the defender would go on to score another, two minutes away from the final whistle in extra time. Ballgist analyses the incidence and explains why it was disallowed.

Liverpool got the better of Chelsea in a feisty – Carabao Cup final – encounter at the renowned Wembley Stadium in London, thanks to a second-half of extra time header from club captain Virgil Van Dijk.

It was a game that Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino would rue for missed opportunities, with Liverpool academy players putting them to the sword after injuries to their team’s starters.

The game was brimming and bursting with several intolerable referee calls – as is the case mostly in feisty encounters – especially between top sides in England. This was always going to go the way of the VAR in the end, after many calls became more controversial as the game went on.

On one of these occasions, Moises Caicedo of Chelsea, in an attempt to stop a Liverpool counter-attack, had plunged his boots into the ankle of Holland international Ryan Gravenberch, who was later taken out of the stadium for a medical check-up as he could not continue play.

Moises Caicedo boots heavily on Ryan’s ankle as he looks to attempt to stop a counter-attack by Liverpool

There were chants and calls from fans and players on the Reds’ end, respectively for a review check on the tackle, but the former Brighton midfielder scraped through the moment without being shown a card.

The main VAR moment of the game

The moment of reconnaissance came in the 60th minute when Van Dijk thought he had opened the scoring for Liverpool after powering home a beautiful header from Andy Robertson’s free kick.

A lengthy VAR review, however, saw the goal ultimately ruled offside after Japanese midfielder, Wataru Endo was seen on the offside trap when the ball came in and he shielded Levi Colwill from marking his man as the Chelsea man attempted to go back.


The International Football Association Board (IFAB) laws of the game indicate a player is in an offside position if:

  • any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
  • any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.
What’s the VAR’s verdict?

The relevant part of the law here relates to Endo’s positioning when the free-kick is taken.

Goalscorer Van Dijk is not in an offside position. However, Endo is “nearer the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent” when the ball is played in.

Even if they don’t touch the ball, players are deemed to be offside if they are ruled to be “making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”.

Section 11 of IFAB Laws states that;

“A player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball; this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball; if the player moves into the way of an opponent and impedes the opponent’s progress (e.g. blocks the opponent), the offence should be penalised.”

The VAR and Kavanagh deemed Endo’s obstruction of Levi Colwill to have clearly impacted the Chelsea defender’s ability to play the ball before Van Dijk headed it in. Therefore, Kavanagh ruled the goal disallowed and awarded a free-kick to Chelsea.

In the end, poetic justice was nonetheless delivered as Van Dijk scored for a second time in the game.

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