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var gaff Questions need to be answered as referee chief makes personal apology to Everton

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Manchester City's Rodri in action before a VAR review does not award a penalty for handball Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Manchester City's Rodri in action before a VAR review does not award a penalty for handball Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Manchester City's Rodri in action before a VAR review does not award a penalty for handball Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Everton have received a personal apology from referee chief Mike Riley after Saturday's controversial game against Manchester City, but questions over an incident that could decide the Premier League title race remain unanswered.

With City leading 1-0 heading into the closing minutes of the game, Rodri clearly handled the ball in the Everton box in what looked certain to be a penalty to the home side.

Referee Paul Tierney did not award a penalty to Everton despite clear evidence on the field and then, inexplicably, VAR official Chris Kavanagh declared there was no obvious error had been made and did not overturn the original decision.

The incident passed and City collected the three points that moved them six points clear of Liverpool in an increasingly tense title race, but the bemusement from the football community over the incident continues to rumble on.

"The decision is incredible, incredible, and that loses us the opportunity to get what we deserved," said Everton boss Frank Lampard after the match.

"That's a VAR call. That’s Chris Kavanagh, I spoke to the referee and they know it is a penalty, the question is that is it offside and it wasn't. That's the reason we have VAR.

"It wouldn't have needed more than five seconds to know it was a penalty. He (Kavanagh) should have either told the referee to give it or told him to go look at it.

"We've lost a point because of a professional who cannot do his job right and you start searching for whys and I can't think why. It is so incompetent to get it wrong. Incompetence at best, at worst who knows?"

The refereeing team of Tierney and Kavanagh were also in charge as Harry Kane escaped a red card in a game against Liverpool earlier this season, despite TV replays appearing to confirm his tackle endangered an opponent and was out of control, which should have resulted in his dismissal.

The two incidents have both hit Liverpool's title hopes (they drew the game against Spurs 2-2), with former Reds striker John Aldridge convinced some decisions are tainted by bias.

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The VAR decision left Everton incensed (Peter Byrne/PA)

The VAR decision left Everton incensed (Peter Byrne/PA)

The VAR decision left Everton incensed (Peter Byrne/PA)

"I've said for years that certain referees have allegiances that affect their decisions," Aldridge told sundayworld.com. "If you grew up supporting a team and suddenly you are making a decision that could impact the hopes of that team, it's inevitable that your decision can be affected.

"If I was in charge of a game featuring a team that was challenging Liverpool for the title, my judgement would be affected, so I can see where they are coming from.

"Whatever the truth of it all, the suspicion is there and that handball on Saturday was a clear example of doubt being put into the minds of people over how that decision could have been made."

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Now Mike Riley - the general manager of the Professional Game Match Official Limited - has personally called the club to apologise for his organisation's shortcomings on Merseyside.

Sky Sports have confirmed that Riley called Everton chairman Bill Kenwright and manager Lampard personally to offer his apologies, with the decision piling the pressure on the Merseyside club amid their relegation fight.

It remains to be seen what punishment will be given to the match officials in charge of the game at Goodison Park on Saturday and it is safe to assume Liverpool and their manager Jurgen Klopp will not what the team of Tierney and Kavanagh making calls that will have an impact on his team for the rest of this season.

Klopp said after his side's game at Tottenham in December that Tierney was the only official in the Premier League he had a problem with and now that issue has been brought to the fore again.

When a mistake as blatant as this is made, questions will be asked about a decision-making process that went so badly wrong.

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