Trent Alexander-Arnold says the ball did strike him on the arm in the box seconds before Liverpool opened the scoring during Sunday's 3-1 win over Premier League title rivals Manchester City on Sunday.
Fabinho found the net in spectacular fashion after six minutes at Anfield, but his strike was mired in controversy thanks to events at the other end of the pitch. City had a strong penalty claim when Alexander-Arnold stopped a cross with his arm.
A VAR look was instigated, but Liverpool broke and scored while the incident was being checked. The goal ultimately stood, while referee Michael Oliver's decision not to award City a penalty was also endorsed by the technology.
Afterward, Alexander-Arnold cleared up the events while talking to Sky Sports:
The Premier League explained why no decision was given, per Marcus Banks of the Manchester Evening News:
"A penalty was not awarded as Alexander-Arnold's arm was not in an unnatural position. PGMOL added that there was not enough reaction time for the defender to move his arm out the way.
Official rules on handball state if the arm or hand makes the body ‘unnaturally bigger’, it is handball.The rules say that an arm or hand above the shoulder can ‘rarely be a natural position’."
Meanwhile, Liverpool chief Jurgen Klopp discussed Citizens goalscorer Bernardo Silva possibly committing the first offence. However, Klopp also offered sympathy for his City counterpart Pep Guardiola over the sudden swing in the team's fortunes.
Silva's role in the incident is key because Martyn Ziegler of The Times believes it was also a decision missed, one that would have rendered any penalty appeals moot:
It was the most significant moment of controversy in a game Liverpool ultimately won after additional goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Yet it wasn't the only time Alexander-Arnold was under the spotlight.
He avoided disaster again late on after Raheem Sterling and City pleaded for another handball decision. Feeling aggrieved for a second time left Guardiola exasperated:
The 48-year-old continued his protests after the full-time whistle:
City were also left to lament Salah's goal being allowed to stand despite the forward appearing to be narrowly offside. It epitomised how fortune didn't smile on City, while Liverpool rode the luck all title winners need.
The way decisions played out will also surely raise further questions about the value and effectiveness of VAR. Former players such as BT Sport pundits Gary Lineker and Michael Owen underlined the different responses the polarising system inspires from those watching games:
Gary Lineker @GaryLineker
The offside technology is basic. Still subjective if tight. There are times when it’s too close to call. Silly to pretend otherwise. If you need to draw lines and take minutes to decide then it’s a nonsense. If you can’t see an error immediately, stick with officials decision. https://t.co/gxgKkopmmo
michael owen @themichaelowen
The penalty shout is purely the refs call. VAR doesn’t interfere with his decision as it’s not an obvious mistake. I worked on TV today. The opinion of everyone was totally split so how can we slaughter it for that? It had no other impact apart to confirm the 2nd goal was onside.
The VAR debate will rage on, but even though decisions didn't favour City, Liverpool were worthy winners thanks to the pace, power and quality of their game.
It was cruel irony for Guardiola and Co. that most of those attributes were embodied by Alexander-Arnold and his fellow full-back Andy Robertson. The latter teased in a sweet cross for Salah's goal after being released by a typically astute pass from Alexander-Arnold.
Robertson now has four assists to his credit this season, while 21-year-old Alexander-Arnold has three in the league. Robertson's knack for supply, along with Alexander-Arnold's technique and vision, will help Liverpool stay effective going forward despite the absence of a natural playmaker in midfield.
Klopp trusts his full-backs to keep the chances flowing for free-scoring front three Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino. It's a combination good enough to have the Reds in a commanding position to end the club's near-30-year wait to win another top-flight title.