Former Premier League referee Graham Poll believes Anthony Taylor was wrong to award West Ham's goal during the side's recent 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, but he says the official got both penalties correct.
Poll, who currently writes a column for the Daily Mail, suggested the official incorrectly allowed Sam Allardyce's team back in the game, just moments after they fell behind to Steven Gerrard's opener from the penalty spot:
Andy Carroll's challenge on Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was described as 'borderline assault' by my colleague Jamie Redknapp. While I’m not sure I’d go that far, it was a clear foul by the West Ham striker.
Brendan Rodgers' side are currently two points clear of Chelsea and four ahead of Manchester City, the latter of which have two games in hand. Key decisions at this stage could decide the destination of the title.
Despite Stuart Burt—Taylor's linesman—ruling the goal out, the referee eventually decided Guy Demel's finish should stand after consulting his colleague on the sidelines. Many believe Taylor was also wrong to award Liverpool a second spot-kick when Jon Flanagan was brought down under pressure from Adrian, but Poll believes this was the correct decision:
Both Liverpool’s penalties were correct decisions. The first spot-kick was a blatant handball and James Tomkins was lucky only to be booked. He could easily have seen red because he denied Luis Suarez a clear goalscoring chance.
And, yes, West Ham keeper Adrian got a piece of the ball in the second half but he then cleaned out Jon Flanagan. Penalty all day long.
During his post-match interview with Sky Sports, Rodgers also felt the second penalty was correctly awarded, via ESPN:
"The first penalty was clear and I thought the second one was a penalty as well," said Rodgers. "Jon gets a touch on the ball and touches it past the goalkeeper. The keeper gets a touch on the ball, but also takes him."
Speaking to Sky Sports 1 (via John Drayton of the Daily Mail), Reds captain Gerrard insisted Liverpool aren't over the line, despite leading the Premier League title race with five games to go:
"I am not convinced (Liverpool will win the league) just yet," he said. "We have very hard games to go; we've got a huge game next week. We've got to give everything we can."
Should Liverpool's second penalty have stood against West Ham?
Liverpool's next three games will go a long way toward deciding if they are destined to end up as champions. Results against City, Norwich and Chelsea are likely to dictate whether the team have a chance heading into the final two matches with Crystal Palace and Newcastle.
A loss against either of the big two will see Liverpool lose control of their position, ensuring they would have to rely on other results.
Right now, Rodgers' men are playing with the type of confidence that has seen champions crowned in the past. West Ham made life difficult for Liverpool in the first half of their clash, but patience and passing was key during the second. By dropping Gerrard slightly deeper after the interval, the Reds were able to soak up any pressure before springing a quick foray into the Hammers' box.
It is likely Liverpool will be examined more thoroughly in the coming weeks. Sunday's fixture against City is arguably the toughest test left, especially considering Chelsea have lost their last two away games.
Manuel Pellegrini's team are the only side in the Premier League to have matched Liverpool's entertainment factor. When City play well, they are extremely difficult to contain. The current division leaders found this out with a 2-1 loss at the Etihad earlier this season, a result they must improve upon if the trophy is to be laced with red ribbons.
This is the point in the campaign where refereeing mistakes can alter the destination of the prize. While Liverpool fans will be relieved Taylor's miscue didn't cost them the game, his error highlights the tetchy moments that lie ahead.