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Who is to Blame for Foolish Arsenal Goal?

Porto’s second goal against Arsenal in today’s Champion’s League game is destined to live forever on any number of football blooper DVDs.   It was a comedy of errors that resulted in a goal that any 7 year old could score.

In order, these were the errors that occurred:

Sol Campbell sent a backpass to Lukacz Fabianski.  As Campbell was trying to protect the ball and herd it into Fabianski’s arms, he clearly had a touch.  Watching the video, there can be a real case to be made that it was an unintentional touch and the referee would have been in his rights to not call the violation, but anytime you touch the ball as it is rolling into the goal keeper’s arms, you are at risk for a whistle.

Once the whistle blew, Campbell switched off.  Bent over with his hands on his knees, Campbell was either tired or frustrated at his mistake or the referee’s call.  Whichever the case, Campbell is the wily veteran and needed to take control of the situation.  Instead, while the drama was playing out, Campbell was conducting a very thorough examination of the tops of his shoes.

Fabianski, graciously holds the ball and then hands it right to the referee.  As soon as the referee blows the whistle, Fabianski needs to send that ball somewhere very far away.  Kick it into the stands.  Throw it across the field.  Anything other than holding it while waiting for something to happen.  With Porto’s players calling for the ball and the referee signaling that he wants it, take the yellow card and punt it into orbit if you have to, but don’t just hand it to the referee when you are in no way set up to defend the kick.

Once the ball is in the referee’s hands, Campbell or Fabianski needs to stand right in front of the ball.  In fact, stand on it.  Better yet, sit on it.  Let the referee order you back 10 yards and then have him mark off the ten yards to build a wall.  You have to allow your team to get set up for the kick.  To just hand the referee the ball and give Porto room to operate is like handing Porto a loaded gun.

Of course, the referee was harsh to let Porto take the kick so quickly.  It is the referee’s discretion to allow an immediate free kick or not.  Occasionally, if a player asks for permission to take the kick quickly, and if their opponents are slow to organize, the referee will let them go ahead.  However, with the players spread all over the pitch and some confusion about the call, allowing a quick indirect kick within the box is like handing Porto a goal.  To permit that quick kick is not an incorrect decision, but it is a very harsh one, especially since Arsenal were denied a stone-cold penalty from a foul against Tomas Rosicky not one minute before.

On top of it all, the referee blocked Campbell out of the play.  Once the referee allowed the kick to be taken quickly, he also took Campbell out of the play.  It happened so quickly that the referee did not have time to back away, and Campbell was prevented from getting to the goal scorer, Garcia Zarate.   

Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger was very critical of the referee in his post-game comments.  However, I have no doubt his team will hear about their faults from Wenger in the days to come.  Whatever the referee’s mistakes, the gifted goal was wrapped by Campbell and Fabianski.


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