Did everyone spot Nemanja Vidic’s contribution to Manchester United’s third goal against Chelsea on Sunday? The tactic, reminiscent of basketball’s pick-and-roll, has been creeping into Premier League play over the course of this season. Sunday’s example was the most blatant to date – and it still wasn’t picked up by the referee.
As you can see from the video of the goal, the cross comes from a free-kick in the vicinity of the corner flag. Berbatov is being man-marked by Ballack and Terry is covering Vidic.
As the kick is taken, Vidic is not looking at the ball (which is directly behind him) but instead is concentrating on impeding Ballack’s ability to cover Berbatov.
Here you see the pick in full effect. Vidic steps into the path of Ballack after Berbatov makes his run to the near post.
Now unmarked, Berbatov has the simple task of converting from five yards out.
Allowing this sort of play by the attacking team makes scoring goals too easy. That’s why it is against the laws of the game, and why referees must become more alert to the activity.
Manchester United were unfortunate to get pulled back by the officials for their chicanery (legal, this time) during that corner routine in the first half, so I suppose there was some sort of karma in effect here.
Incidently, while the pick-and-roll is within the rules of basketball, it requires the player making the pick (i.e. Vidic) to keep his feet still, which he doesn’t. It also would not be allowed in the NFL, which has a sensible rule that assumes that if a player isn’t actually looking at the ball in flight, they’re probably committing a foul.