Liverpool vs Napoli: Should Virgil van Dijk have been sent off for his challenge on Dries Mertens?

Though Liverpool will have to wait until next week’s Champions League draw to find out who they will face in the Round of 16, they already know they will go into the first leg without Virgil van Dijk.

The Reds’ towering centre-back, without a doubt their standout performer of the season, was cautioned for a tackle on Dries Mertens in the first half of their 1-0 win against Napoli on Tuesday evening. As his third yellow card of the group stage, he will now be forced to sit out the first game of the knockouts.

While that might not seem particularly fortuitous, some felt that Van Dijk was lucky not to receive harsher punishment. The challenge on Mertens has sparked a heated debate, not least because BT Sport commentator – and former Liverpool man – Steve McManaman claimed on first viewing that it didn’t merit a caution or a free kick.

Crunching challenge

On second viewing, it’s hard to agree with McManaman. While, on the one hand, Van Dijk won the ball from Mertens, he also followed through with enough force to visibly jar Mertens’ ankle in wince-inducing fashion.

While some have claimed that Van Dijk couldn’t help the follow through and that Mertens’ momentum carried him into the challenge, that is not necessarily a defence in itself. The Laws of the Game state that, when considering whether to show a red card, a referee must consider whether a foul is “careless”, “reckless” or “using excessive force”, with the first option requiring no further action, the second requiring a booking and the third calling for a sending off.

Referee Damir Skomina clearly decided the foul was reckless, but a case could certainly be made for Van Dijk having used excessive force. The Laws of the Game further define a player using excessive force as “in danger of injuring his opponent” and, seeing the way Mertens’ ankle bent after the tackle, an injury to the Napoli man hardly seemed outside the realms of possibility.

That said, despite looking like he was in serious pain after the challenge, Mertens was able to continue and was only substituted in the 67th minute.

Ultimately, drawing the fine line between “reckless” and “using excessive force” is left to the referee’s discretion. Van Dijk may have been helped by the fact that he was clearly attempting to win the ball as opposed to make contact with his opponent, leaving the tackle open to interpretation.

Skomina saw the incident as reckless, which perhaps better reflects the unintentional nature of the follow through. Nonetheless, it was crunching contact and, on another night, it may not have been interpreted so leniently.

More on the Champions League

Spurs make too many mistakes but deserve their place in the last 16

Spurs’ mission impossible at Camp Nou shows Pochettino’s brilliance

Liverpool’s win over Napoli proves the futility of doubting Mo Salah

When is the Champions League draw? How to watch and fixture dates

What do Spurs need to qualify from Champions League group?

Barça vs Spurs: Kick-off time, how to watch, team news

The post Liverpool vs Napoli: Should Virgil van Dijk have been sent off for his challenge on Dries Mertens? appeared first on inews.co.uk.

Original source: //inews.co.uk/sport/football/champions-league/liverpool-vs-napoli-virgil-van-dijk-tackle-yellow-card-dries-mertens/

Relevant news

Leave a Reply