John Aldridge admitted watching Liverpool suffered a last-gasp 3-2 loss to Tottenham Hotspur was ‘heartbreaking’ amid a ‘dreadful’ refereeing performance from Simon Hooper.
The Reds slipped to their maiden defeat of the 2023-24 season in north London last Saturday, although things couldn’t have gone much worse for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Not only did they have Curtis Jones issued a red card - having initially been branded a yellow before a VAR review - Luis Diaz had what should have been the opening goal disallowed.
The winger was flagged offside but video replays highlighted he was clearly in a legal position when Mo Salah released a pass. Darren England was on VAR duty at Stockley Park yet failed to overturn the decision. Referees' body PGMOL has since admitted a significant human error was made.
Despite Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo cancelling out Son Heung-min’s opening goal, the visitors were reduced to nine men in the second period when Hooper gave Diogo Jota a second yellow card. The forward was given his first caution despite it appearing that Spurs’ Destiny Udogie tripped over his own leg. Liverpool would defend admirably with a significant numerical disadvantage before they were breached in the 96th minute when Joel Matip turned a cross into his own net.
Speaking to Sunday World, Aldridge said: “Liverpool were up against a very good Tottenham team and a dreadful referee – they came within seconds of pulling off an incredible result.
“Referee Simon Hooper seemed more than a little delighted to give out more cards to Liverpool players than I get at Christmas last night. The red cards he served up to Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota were the tip of the iceberg, as he gave Liverpool nothing throughout the game. Then, after what was a heroic effort to pull off the impossible with nine men a last-minute own goal from Joel Matip killed them.
“Of course, the goal that should have been from Luis Diaz is also a major talking point from this game and I wonder how on earth they have messed that up. We could all see he was onside from the first replay and somehow, the VAR and referee have dreamed a scenario to cancel the goal. I have my own theory why that might have been, but I can’t say it here as I might get sued! In the end, it was heartbreaking for Liverpool to lose on a night wen they were up against odds that were impossible to beat.”
The loss brought the end to Liverpool’s eight-match unbeaten start to the season. The Reds’ impressive opening has caught plenty by surprise given their struggles last campaign, coupled with signifcant changes being made to their squad during the summer transer window.
Aldridge believes the bevy of attacking options that Klopp can call on is the ‘biggest difference’. The former Kop striker said: “For me, the big difference between this Liverpool side and the team that was floundering last season is they have a Plan B, C and D option that Klopp has never had before in his forward line.
“Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were a sensational attacking trio and fired Liverpool to Champions League, Premier League and every other trophy available during their time at the club. Those successes relied on those three to deliver the goods and their class ensured they delivered more often than not.
“When those three did have dips in form, it had a huge impact on Liverpool and Klopp didn’t really have an option to change it up Now he has attacking talent that has so much variety and that’s why they have started the season so well.”