Another day, another dive. With a stilted Liverpool trailing a frisky Birmingham City at Anfield late, David N’Gog (pronounced like “own goal”) sensationally split two defenders while charging in from the left. N’Gog then almost blew past Lee Carsley, but Carsley slid towards him, grazing the ball while managing to avoid any contact. N’Gog leapt, then dived harder than Greg Louganis. Referee Peter Walton pointed to the spot. Moments later Steven Gerrard slotted home to the left, sealing the draw for the unjustly enriched Reds.
A calmer head might argue that sometimes even the slightest disturbance can send a player who is sprinting at full speed flailing to the ground. N’gog’s tumble may indeed have been genuine. All the same, Carsley appears to have played the ball rather than the player and timed his challenge perfectly
Former referee Graham Poll, writing in the Daily Mail, argues the bad call may have been averted had an additional assistant ref been present behind the goal as is currently being tested in the Europa League. Perhaps Monday’s controversy will aid the arrival of such assistants in the Premier League in the near future.
In the new book, Soccernomics (U.S. title), Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski argue that on average, penalties do “not make it any more likely that home teams or away teams or favorites or underdogs win.” Unfortunately, Brummies, like most supporters, do not think in terms of “on average,” and will rue the missed chance to claim their first victory at Anfield since 2004.