LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Pep Guardiola approached the referee with a parting shot: “Thank you so much.”
The Manchester City manager’s comment in earshot of the onfield camera was dripping with disdain.
Regardless of later assurances to the media — “it was not sarcastic” — there was no doubting his irritation toward Michael Oliver after the 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Sunday.
Refereeing has been in Guardiola’s sights, especially after the introduction of VAR. And particularly after this third loss in 12 matches of the title defense left City nine points behind Premier League leader Liverpool in fourth place.
It could all be a smokescreen for a tilt at a third successive title fading, with 26 games still to play and Liverpool well placed to end a three-decade drought by sitting eight points ahead of Leicester and Chelsea.
What got Guardiola so worked up? City not being awarded a penalty just before Liverpool raced up the other end and scored.
“Ask to Mike Riley and the big bosses about that,” Guardiola said, citing the league’s head of refereeing. “Don’t ask me.”
Premier League referees never appear on camera to explain decisions and the audio feed to the VAR is not public. So scattered explanations behind decisions only drip out of the world’s richest soccer competition.
Just five minutes into the game, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s outstretched right arm handled the ball but it was not deemed to be deliberate.
But City midfielder Bernardo Silva had already helped the ball on with his hand, appearing to be in contravention of the new laws of the game against the attacker.
With play continuing, Liverpool launched a counterattack that saw Sadio Mane charge down the left flank from inside his own half.