Controversial Liverpool goal leaves Nottingham Forest empty-handed

Nottingham Forest fought valiantly but their efforts were ultimately in vain, conceding a heartbreaking 99th-minute winner to Liverpool; of course, subject to questionable refereeing calls. George Edwards reports from the City Ground

Football provides a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Delirium for a potentially title-winning goal in the corner of the Bridgford Stand. Dejection from many around the City Ground, head in hands, whose efforts and support had been thrown away at the death. Detest from the majority, not least Reds’ owner Evangelos Marinakis, for the blatant incompetence of an official, whose contribution appeared to hand Liverpool the chance to attack and eventually score so late on in the match.

These emotions are why we love football and invest so heavily in it, yet this time football provided Forest fans with weekend-ruining moment.

Starting at the end seems wise. The 96th minute, to be exact. Ibrahim Konaté goes down, feigning injury, with Forest in a crossing position on the left. Referee Paul Tierney halts the attack and with that, up gets the defender.

Tierney then awards Liverpool ‘keeper Caoimhin Kelleher an uncontested drop ball, from a Forest attack? Yep. Baffling. The sportsman thing to do would then be for Liverpool to give Forest the ball back, as we see so often from throw ins. But they didn’t, and Forest went from a potentially match-winning situation to clinging on for a point.

What followed was defensively inexplicable. On the back of an outstanding and courageous display at the back, there was one mistake — one mistake you can’t make against top of the table. Forest failed to clear, spurning possession after having a chance to clear on the edge of the box and the travelling side did the rest. An Alexis Mac Allister cross was glanced home by Darwin Nunez.

Frustration was, of course, directed at Tierney, who had a decent afternoon until this point, tainted by his actions at the end. And while there’s a claim that Tierney did the same in the first half, on that occasion the ball was in the box so a different scenario entirely.

Until then, Forest had taken on their opponents with spirit and belief, playing their own game and looking the better side. Yes, Liverpool had more of the ball, but it was the hosts with the chances, rueing their missed opportunities once again.

Anthony Elanga played down the middle, as Divock Origi was deployed out wide, a position he has thrived upon over recent weeks. The Belgian had the game’s first real chance as he shot wide from distance early on, but it was Elanga who had the gilt-edged opportunities.

In the first half, Origi sent the Swede through on goal and Elanga put the burners on. A one-on-one with Kelleher followed as the Irish goalie smothered, an effort that had to be converted despite offside looking marginal. Then in the second, Harry Toffolo sent a perfect ball towards Elanga at the back post and, on the instep of his left foot, he shot wide.

They rode their luck at times, as you must in games like this, first when Andy Robertson shot wide from inside the box after an attempted Nico Dominguez clearance fell into the Scot’s path. After going down injured just five minutes before, Forest ‘keeper Matz Sels produced a magical moment in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, a stunning one-handed stop that saved Murillo from scoring an own goal.

In terms of chances, it was an even contest and the points being shared would have been merited, but it wasn’t meant to be.

A year ago, to compete, Forest would have approached this game with a low block, a packed midfield and with little intent to attack. Granted, it worked; the 1-0 win a true highlight of last season. On Saturday, Forest played a high line, their usual setup and took the game on like Liverpool were their equal.

There were some fine individual displays too. Andrew Omobamidele’s first Premier League start in a month was a surprise one, but a gamble that paid off; the defender showing incredible aerial ability of which has been the one criticism of him so far. Neco Williams continues to deliver five-star displays every week, with Liverpool getting no joy when attacking down his side.

Yesterday, and last Wednesday night against Manchester United, showed why every Forest manager consistently selects Ryan Yates—a powerhouse performance once again from Forest’s skipper.

The foundations are there and you can’t help but feel sorry for the manager. He has shown faith in players who are now starting to deliver. He looks to have found a way to limit chances against Forest while constantly being a threat. The results just aren’t coming, but if performances like yesterday continue, they are bound to.

But frustration, like never seen before, was the mood at full-time. A volatile atmosphere, where just two minutes before there were tears of joy. That’s how football can change in an instant. Forest won’t forget what happened to them yesterday. How close they came to nabbing a point from the potential title winners and how the decision-making of one man left a sour taste in the mouths of 26,000 Forest fans.

A defeat away at Liverpool last season was the catalyst for Forest, as they gained confidence and climbed to safety. Here’s hoping that history can repeat itself once more.

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