Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body responsible for match officials across English football, has admitted Liverpool midfielder Fabinho should have been sent off for his challenge on Brighton & Hove Albion forward Evan Ferguson in Sunday's FA Cup tie.
Fabinho caught Ferguson on the Achilles in a lunging challenge from behind in the 86th minute. Referee David Coote gave the foul but only showed Fabinho a yellow card and the VAR, Neil Swarbrick, decided against a review to upgrade to a red card.
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PGMOL expects fouls of this nature to result in a red card, with the full point of contact from the studs above the ankle from behind, and there should have been a VAR intervention with the player sent off for serious foul play.
Even though PGMOL has conceded Fabinho should have been sent off -- and therefore serve a three-match ban -- no retrospective action is possible because the incident was seen and assessed by both the referee and the VAR. The Football Association could only charge the Liverpool player if the officials hadn't seen it during the game.
Howard Webb returned to English football as PGMOL's chief refereeing officer last month, promising greater openness and transparency over decision-making. Previously, PGMOL had rarely offered any response to controversial incidents -- though it was effectively forced into acknowledging errors in September when the Premier League took the unprecedented step of asking PGMOL to explain why crucial goals for West Ham at Chelsea and Newcastle United at home to Crystal Palace were disallowed through VAR interventions.
Prior to that, in February 2020, PGMOL did admit Tottenham Hotspur's Giovani Lo Celso should have been sent off for a high challenge on Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta. Again the VAR that day, coincidentally Coote, didn't take action when it was a clear red card offence.
Ferguson, 18, has burst into the Brighton first team over the last month, scoring three Premier League goals. The Republic of Ireland international was forced off because of the challenge, left the stadium on crutches and could face weeks out injured.
"We are sorry for him [Ferguson]," Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi told beIN Sports. "The injury, we don't know yet, but we will see in the next days and we hope for him and for the club that it will not be so important an injury."
Liverpool finished the game at the Amex with 11 players on the pitch, but also survived calls for VAR red cards against Ibrahima Konate and Andy Robertson, both for challenges on Alexis Mac Allister. Brighton won the tie 2-1 with a injury-time goal from Kaoru Mitoma (stream a replay on ESPN+, U.S. only.)