Boxing Day saw all 20 Premier League teams play, producing some very interesting results and a number of goalkeeping howlers. As ever, the referees were kept very busy with red cards, penalties and goal line decisions.
Fouls inside the box from set pieces are increasingly becoming more and more frequent. Jumping on players’ shoulders, pulling shirts and holding players happen all the time, by every team. When I referee myself, it’s very difficult to spot one incident where 22 players are inside the box. However, something needs to be done. Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel is a major culprit. It is hard for the officials, but incidents in the box need to stop. I am not saying there should be no contact in the box, but blatant obstructions need to be cut out and referees should be on high alert and start giving penalties and free kicks to start reducing the amount of antics that go on.
Starting at St James’ Park where Newcastle provided a knockout punch, defeating 9 man Stoke City 5-1, the Magpies were 1-0 down until just before half time. Stoke’s first red card was for Irish midfielder Glenn Whelan for two bookable offenses. The first yellow was awarded for a tackle from behind on Moussa Sissoko. Referee Martin Atkinson correctly showed the yellow card. Only a few minutes later, Whelan fouled another Newcastle player and he knew instantly that he was in trouble. Atkinson showed the second yellow card, which infuriated Stoke boss Mark Hughes who was sent to the stands for protesting with fourth official Andre Marriner. Stoke were 1-0 up at the time, so you have to question Whelan for making two rash tackles in the space of 10 minutes. He gave Atkinson no choice.
Just before half time, Marc Wilson conceded a penalty and was shown a red card for bringing down Loic Remy, when the Frenchman was through on goal. Again, Atkinson judged it spot on. Remy was one on one, despite there being another defender inside the box. Wilson had no case to argue, but this isn’t the first incident where Wilson has brought down a player denying a goal scoring opportunity. Only last Saturday, he brought Aston Villa’s Andreas Weimann down and was fortunate not to be sent off. Newcastle missed the penalty, but ran out 5-1 winners. Stoke only have themselves to blame in my view, however, manager, Mark Hughes didn’t think that was the case. In an interview with BBC’s Match of the Day, he was asked about the red card decisions. Hughes was quoted as saying “It went wrong when the referee got involved. The initial sending off was very, very harsh — ridiculous in fact. Myself and everybody expects a better standard of refereeing.”
Hughes has been known to complain about decisions regularly, but the blame must go to his players for having to play with 9 men for 45 minutes.
Sunderland travelled to Everton where the bottom side were in desperate need for 3 points to keep in touch with the strugglers in the bottom half of the league. Half way through the first half, Everton shot stopper Tim Howard misplaced a goal kick and it went straight to South Korean Ki Sung-Yeung, who went straight for goal before being brought down by Howard. Lee Probert correctly awarded a penalty and a red card. Howard attempted to get the ball but cannot complain with the decision as I believe that Ki would have scored if there was no foul, as there was an open goal.