Oh, those dotted lines. How we have missed them.
For much of this season to date, it is the ridiculousness of the new handball rules that have been raising blood pressures up and down the football-watching land. Until now.
In 90 minutes, in a pulsating Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, VAR got the rules wrong, inexplicably did not intervene when it should have done, and, most dispiritingly, killed one of the greatest feelings you can get in a football match. Quite the afternoon.
If Jordan Pickford would have done what he did to Virgil van Dijk in Concert Square on a Friday night in Liverpool he would have been facing a grievous bodily harm charge. The Everton goalkeeper had no place flying out of his goal to take on Van Dijk in just the sixth minute as Liverpool looked to build on their 1-0 lead.
The England stopper got nowhere near the ball, and nearly took Van Dijk off at the knee, ending the Dutchman's match. He got away with a certain red card, because Van Dijk, after those dotted lines were dusted off, was adjudged to have been offside.
Pickford escaped punishment because Van Dijk is in an offside position and had already attempted to play the ball – therefore meaning the offside has occurred before the foul. However, the International Football Association Board rules state that a foul can be penalised before the offside offence if the player in an offside position is fouled while “challenging an opponent for the ball”.
There is also the case for arguing Pickford’s challenge was serious foul play, to put it mildly, with violent conduct still punishable after the whistle. Let-off No. 1 for Everton.
Everton's English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (C) tackles Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (L) during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
Then, having played with real adventure which, having shipped seven goals in their last match, took real courage from Liverpool, the visitors looked like they have snatched the winner at the death. Jordan Henderson arrived right on cue to slot home a stoppage-time winner. Cue scenes of euphoria.
However, those dotted lines had the final say as Sadio Mane was adjudged to be offside in the build up.
"The players don't understand how [Jordan Henderson's] goals was offside," Jurgen Klopp said after the game.
We had something last season where we had the 'arm-pit' goal that wasn't offside. I've had about 10 interviews since this where everyone has told me that's it's not offside.
The red half of Merseyside has every right to be perplexed. FIFA and IFAB have been pretty clear on their directives for the use of the lines.
Now, with the handball rule changing, it is not the armpit, but further down the arm that a player can be in an offside position. Yet, as FIFA and IFAB have instructed, if it takes several minutes, and the lines themselves do not give a conclusive answer, then the goal has to stand, and the goalscoring team given the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps VAR, David Coote, has better eyesight than us mere mortals. From where the rest of us were sitting, however, Mane did not look offside.
Most worryingly, we are back in this dark place, again. VAR was brought in to make sure the correct decisions were given, and victories were deserved, and just. But this is not right. If you cannot see whether a player is offside with 178,386,273 replays and dotted lines down from a shoulder, then do not give it. Simple.
Beating your rival in the last minute is as close to ecstasy as you can get. Denial of that feeling, by one man 100s of miles away, hurts, and hurts bad.
The rules have been adapted to stop this sort of thing stealing the headlines. It is just the right people, in those offices in Stockley Park, did not seem to get the memo. Last season was the litmus test, now there is no excuse.