The VAR Review: Why Van Dijk's goal was ruled out for offside

Virgil van Dijk's goal disallowed by VAR (1:34)

Virgil van Dijk heads in a free kick from Andy Robertson, but VAR disallows the goal after ruling Wataru Endo offside. (1:34)

Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 after extra time in the final of the Carabao Cup. Virgil van Dijk won the game in the final moments of the additional 30 minutes, but he could have done so on the hour but for a VAR intervention.

Here's why the goal was disallowed for offside at Wembley.

- How VAR decisions have affected every Prem club in 2023-24
- VAR in the Premier League: Ultimate guide

Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool

Possible offside: Endo on Van Dijk goal

What happened: Virgil van Dijk thought he had given Liverpool the lead in the 60th minute when he headed home Andy Robertson's free kick. But as the players celebrated, there was a check in progress for a subjective offside, and referee Chris Kavanagh was sent to the pitchside screen by the VAR, John Brooks.

VAR decision: Goal disallowed.

VAR review: They say lightning never strikes twice ... unless you're Liverpool and playing Chelsea in the final of the Carabao Cup.

Two years ago, Liverpool thought they had taken the lead at Wembley when Joël Matip headed home in the 67th minute, but the VAR stepped in after he identified that Van Dijk had blocked Reece James and prevented him from making a challenge.

So for 2022, read 2024 too.

It's not about a foul by Wataru ; indeed it wouldn't be penalised if he was onside. It's impeding an opponent, which has a much lower threshold than a foul.

This kind of blocking move goes on at free kicks all the time in the Premier League, but there are two key considerations: is the player offside, and if so, has he impacted an opponent from getting involved in the play? In the vast majority of cases if the blocking player is offside, they aren't stopping a player who has the chance to challenge for the ball -- so the VAR won't get involved. And, of course, in most cases a goal isn't scored so the VAR wouldn't have the remit to look at similar blocking from an offside position.

Yet you will see it penalised several times in the leagues across Europe each season. Indeed, in October Brentford thought they had scored against Burnley when Bryan Mbeumo took a free kick, it was helped back across the area by Nathan Collins and headed home by Neal Maupay. But Kristoffer Ajer, who was offside, was penalised for holding back Lyle Foster when the free kick came over to Collins.

Previous examples include Raphaël Varane's goal for Manchester United against Burnley chalked off after an offside Harry Maguire had blocked a defender, and an Aston Villa goal cancelled at Old Trafford when Jacob Ramsey had stopped a run from Edinson Cavani, who was back defending.

The law states: "if a player moving from, or standing in, an offside position is in the way of an opponent and interferes with the movement of the opponent towards the ball, this is an offside offence if it impacts on the ability of the opponent to play or challenge for the ball."

When Robertson took the free kick, Endo was in an offside position. As the ball came into the area, Endo blocked Levi Colwill. The VAR has judged that Endo prevented the Chelsea defender from being able to run into the dropping zone and potentially make a challenge. It's the area that Colwill would expect to attack and there would have been a clear channel for him to run into.

If this wasn't an offence in law, attackers would have carte blanche to actively position themselves offside to block the runs of opposition players. That happens of course -- the important difference being the attacker is usually back onside by the time the ball is kicked as the line drops.

The law doesn't demand that Colwill will win the ball, only that his ability to make a challenge for it has been affected.

Much like the VAR intervention to award Newcastle United a penalty for a shirt pull on an offside Fabian Schär against AFC Bournemouth last weekend, it's the correct decision in law but there will be plenty who feel this is re-refereeing a game, getting involved when it wasn't apparent there was a possible offence.

Possible red card: Caicedo challenge on Gravenberch

What happened: Ryan Gravenberch had the ball by the touchline in the 24th minute. He released the ball but was then caught by Moisés Caicedo. Referee Kavanagh allowed play to continue but took no action when play stopped for the Liverpool player to get treatment. Was there a case for a VAR review for a red card?

VAR decision: No red card.

VAR review: Challenges when a player is late on an opponent understandably get a great deal of attention, and it's especially true if there's no caution and/or the opposition player has to go off injured.

Caicedo probably should have been booked, but there was no excessive force or any suggestion the nature of the challenge has endangered the safety of Gravenberch. That the Netherlands international had to go off injured wouldn't be a consideration for the VAR, who is unable to advise the referee he's missed a yellow card.

The injury was a result of the challenge, but crucially not the nature of the challenge.

Referee Kavanagh hadn't seen the incident properly and asked the VAR what had happened to Gravenberch, so wouldn't that in itself be a case for a review for a missed incident? The VAR still has to judge it to be worthy of a red card, he won't send a referee to the monitor purely because he might not have seen it.

Much has been made of a VAR looking for the buckle of an ankle as evidence of excessive force, to the extent that it's resulted in an expectation that it means it should always result in a red card. Yet it has only ever been one of many factors a VAR will take into account when judging a challenge, the others include, but not limited to, the speed at which a player goes into the challenge, the height of contact, if it's made with a straight leg and whether it leads with studs showing. Like every subjective decision, it's a judgement call.

There have been a number of comparable challenges this season, with none of them leading to a VAR intervention for a red card, and all those decisions have been judged to be correct by the Premier League's Independent Key Match Incidents Panel -- including the tackle by AFC Bournemouth's Justin Kluivert on Luis Díaz last month.