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Rating Phil Dowd’s Performance: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal

Yesterday evening I finally got around to watching the entire Newcastle United against Arsenal match which was played almost a week ago and ended 4-4. When the game was shown on television, I was still aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Mexico, so alas, I wasn’t able to watch it live. I did however catch the brief highlights on video. And was astonished by the scoreline and the comeback by Newcastle United.

When I returned from the cruise, I purposefully stayed away from listening or watching any pundits talk about the incidents. I stayed away from Match Of The Day, Football Weekly and similar shows. Unfortunately my DVR didn’t tape the game, so I had to wait until Thursday evening to watch the match.

As a neutral, I kept track of the key moments during the game. With no preconceived notions of what happened, the following is my account of what happened:

41 seconds: Walcott scores after great pass by Arshavin to put him in on goal. Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal.

2:44: Djourou scores a header from free kick by Arshavin. Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal.

9:45: Walcott passes to van Persie in front of goal, and the Dutchman scores with ease. Newcastle 0-3 Arsenal.

25:52: Robin van Persie scores a simple header in front of goal from a great cross by Bacary Sagna. Newcastle 0-4 Arsenal.

38:40: Leon Best gets injured after a tussle with Djourou. Best receives treatment and game starts back at minute 40:50.

45:00: Two minutes of added time indicated.

47:15: Barton fouls Arshavin but keeps on playing. And then Diaby fouls Barton. Newcastle win the free kick despite the fact that Dowd should have first awarded a free kick for Barton’s tackle on Diaby.

48:44: Phil Dowd blows the whistle for half-time. An extra minute and 44 seconds of added time played by Dowd.

47:35: Djourou substituted due to injury. Squillaci comes on to replace him.

49:08: Barton and Diaby go in for 50-50 ball. Barton gets to the ball first but Djourou is knocked down by Barton recklessly following through the ball. Diaby raises arm and pushes Barton down, and then proceeds to push Nolan. Dowd makes the correct decision to red card Diaby in the turning point of this game. However, Barton should have received either a yellow or red card, in my opinion, for reckless behavior. Barton goes unpunished.

67:06: Koscielny fouls Best in the box. Penalty awarded to Newcastle. Dowd made correct call.

67:59: Barton scores the penalty. Newcastle 1-4 Arsenal.

68:04: Szczesny holds on to the ball and prevents Newcastle from getting it to take a quick kick off. Nolan pushes Szczesny to the ground. Dowd books Szczesny for time wasting. Nolan also receives yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct.

73:13: Leon Best scores for Newcastle, but he is ruled offside. Poor decision by assistant referee because Best was definitely onside.

74:24: Leon Best heads down cross in the box and knocks it into the back of the net. Newcastle 2-4 Arsenal. However the goal should have been disallowed because when Best’s header came down, he handled the ball before it fell to ground.

81:59: Phil Dowd awards a penalty to Newcastle after Rosicky pushed Williamson in the box. There was contact on Williamson, but as co-commentator Davie Provan said, it was a soft penalty. Nevertheless, Joey Barton scores from the penalty to make it Newcastle 3-4 Arsenal.

86:56: Cheik Tiote scores when he hits a ball mid-air into the bottom corner of the net. Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal.

90:00: Five minutes of added time announced.

93:06: Robin van Persie scores for Arsenal, but the goal is pulled back because the assistant referee flagged for offside. Correct decision.

In the key moments of the game where referee Phil Dowd or his assistant referees made controversial decisions, the disallowed goal by Leon Best should have been allowed. However, the officials missed the handball by Best in the 75th minute when he scored the goal, so that one should have been disallowed.

Since those two incorrect decisions cancel each other out, the decisive moment in the game then was the second penalty awarded for Newcastle in the 82nd minute. If referees awarded penalty for mild pushes like that in the Premier League, then there would be a significant increase in penalties called each Premier League weekend. It was a soft penalty to award. And Williamson looked like he was playing for it. In this instance, I believe Dowd made a poor decision and thus gave Newcastle an opportunity to equalize in the match.

So if all was fair, Arsenal would have held on for a 4-3 away victory. But as it was, Newcastle tied the match 4-4. Entertaining? Yes. Full of poor decisions by the officials? No. But there was one critical mistake made by Dowd which had a massive impact on the match. Namely the awarding of the second penalty.

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  1. subatomicman

    March 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Good read Gaffer, another result gone thanks to poor officiating.
    Were you on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise that week?

  2. dave

    February 14, 2011 at 1:33 am

    For all you biased people, the real experts dropped Dowd from this weekends fixtures. On top of that, the assistant was demoted to division 2. So you can give your crappy opinion on how it was fair officiating, but the facts say otherwise. Read the rules and you will see that getting the ball first doesn’t mean that a foul isn’t committed. The only reason you think that is because the ignorant match commentators say it so much. If the match was fairly officiated, he wouldn’t have been dropped, but it was soooo obvious that they had to drop him. Lol, and you still spout your opinion as if it actually has some basis of truth.

  3. Sickof Espn

    February 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    awful awful awful reffing

    penalties that should never had been

    2 pts stolen by the ref

  4. R

    February 12, 2011 at 1:18 am

    To the Arsenal fans complaining about Barton flopping before the fourth goal…your second goal has the same stain on it. Cesc flopped, then Arsenal scored on the ensuing free kick. Tit for tat.

    • Leeds74

      February 12, 2011 at 2:48 am

      Cesc flopped? Look again… Fact is once it was 4-0 up, Dowd was calling it extra easy for Newcastle and extra hard on Arsenal.. As many are observing, subliminally, or otherwise, he felt the need to help Newcastle bring the game back to life.. Therein lies the difference, it should be same standards, 0-0, 4-0, or whatever… At 4-3, why did Dowd blow against Arsenal n the 86th/87th minute on an Arsenal attack, which for similar, more forceful tackles by Barton, he did blow against Newcastle. BTW, I’m not an Arsenal fan but a Leeds Utd fan awaiting my team’s return to the top flight..In the mean time I can’t help but look forward to every Arsenal match bcos of how beautiful their game is when they click… No other team comes close. However, it looks like the English system , refs included, does not want them to succeed, opting instead for a smash and grab style, kick the opponent where it hurts style..a style which ensures England will never win the World Cup again. And also a big reason why Chelsea were unfairly denied a Champions league Final 2 years ago (the semi versus Barcelona).

      • Leeds74

        February 12, 2011 at 2:51 am

        ..error in prev posting.. should have read ‘he did NOT blow against Newcastle’..

  5. Vance Naeger

    February 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    This is pretty much spot on. Phil Dowd was Horrible really. Nolan Should be sent off for hitting Szczesny in the head, regardless of what Szczesny did. My hate for Newcastle has only grown bigger.

  6. Murph

    February 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    The defining moment in the game came when Barton tried to break Diaby’s leg, and then Dowd didn’t quickly blow the whistle and reach for a card (one could argue for either color). Had Dowd done that, Diaby would not have reacted as he did, and would not have been sent off. At that point the Toonies tasted blood and the rest is history. The FA should hold hearings (run by former players not affiliated with the FA) and punish reffs for such poor performances. And fire common offenders. One last point. Joey Barton is a common thug and major league scum bag and bad for the league and the game.

  7. Stenerud

    February 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Szczesny was time wasting? It was 3.5 seconds between the time Szczesny picked up the ball from the back of the net and when has was collared by Nolan. It was also Arsenal’s kick-off, not Newcastle’s. A yellow card for 3.5 seconds? And Szczesny was obligated to give the ball to Nolan and Barton? You should then give a yellow card to every single EPL goalkeeper who retrieves the ball from their own net after a goal kick. They inevitably hold onto the ball more than 3.5 seconds. Your observation that Szczesny was wasting time doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

  8. Leeds74

    February 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    The glaring inconsistency is exemplified when in 87th minute, Rosicky is called for a foul when he got the ball first and then went thru on the man with half the pace of Barton’s challenges.. So Barton no foul..Arsenal ..yes foul. And then Barton falling down and he gives a free kick which led to the 4th goal. From Barton’s foul on Arshavin just before halftime, it was as if Dowd was telling Newcastle,.. ‘go on, have a go at them,..I’ll let you.’.and to Arsenal,.. ‘don’t even touch them, I’ll call it a foul’.. This is what encouraged Barton on his 2nd foul, Williamson to mik the pk,…Simply put, Arsenal was not allowed to play on a level field..

  9. Bluesky

    February 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Some points
    1. Barton shud be booked for a yellow for his tackle from the back at Arshavin right before the 1st half ended. The latter was turning his back on Barton, who escaped from being punished with any booking nor freekick due to Dowd’s inconsistent judgment.
    2. Barton shud get another for his tackle at Diaby in 2nd half whether or not he gained the possession first. Where the hell was the possession of the ball was mentioned as a condition of a foul in the law of the game. That challenge cud have broken the Frenchman’s leg.
    3. Nolan’s yellow was inconsistent with Diaby’s red. Both players were furious and the actions were the same yet the results were so ridiculously different.
    4. Best was onside for his goal-should-be. Bad call.
    5. Best did not deliberately use his hand. This decision was fair.
    6. Critical point. Trategic 2nd penalty. This were a foul and the brazilian right back of man u shud be sent off in his previous game versus blackpool and banned for 3 matches. Cudnt say Williamson played for the pen but that force wud not be enough to pull a player who wanted the air ball down.
    7. The freekick before the equaliser. Apparently Barton played for it. Rosicky did not contact JB before the latter fell. Crazy huh?

  10. Brian

    February 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Gaffer, thank you for your analysis of this match. This is the first breakdown I have read that has been able to point out the mistakes that went both ways. It’s a breath of fresh air to find someone actually remain objective and not taint their comments with preconceived notions and bias. Great job!

    • The Gaffer

      February 11, 2011 at 11:23 am

      Thanks Brian for the kind words. It also helped to allow a few days to pass to let the dust settle down before I watched the match.

      The Gaffer

  11. Jason

    February 11, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Dowd is no better than the other EPL referees. I watch a lot of Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga games and compared to the referees there the EPL referees are absolutely terrible. In almost every game they make controversial decisions. It is almost as if the referees and their assistants want to be at the center of the action and want to be the talking point when the game is over. The are wrong way too much.

  12. Gogo

    February 11, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Dowd hates Arsenal. He has cost us many games and that is the simple fact. I struggle to remember the last time we won a game in which he was the referee. I don’t know if he pushes Man U or just hates Arsenal for some reason but the facts are there.

    Premier League Sat 18 Sep 2010 Sunderland 1-1 Arsenal
    Premier League Sat 20 Nov 2010 Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham
    FA Cup Sat 08 Jan 2011 Arsenal 1-1 Leeds

  13. Adam

    February 11, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Couple of points:
    1. I think Barton, is justly the victim of his checkered past. I am not saying that it is unfair as we do this in all walks of life and judge people/ places/ events/ etc based on their past behavior, etc. I think any fellow Toon supporter (or anyone who has watched Newcastle play) would agree with me on this that he has gotten absolutely zero protection at all from referees this season. Can you really blame the refs though? Yes I know they are supposed to be impartial but they are human. All this said, Barton put in a legitimate tackle for me on Diaby, who reacted poorly and was rightfully sent off. The fact that someone was actually red carded for an incident against/ with Joey Barton was shocking to me and I credit Dowd for being partial in this instance, unlike 99% of decisions involving Joey Barton this season.

    2. To be fair, Nolan more or less had Szczesny in a headlock before he dropped him. He was probably angered by the pink keeper kit, much like a bull and waving a red towel. I don’t think the Nolan reaction and Diaby’s reaction are comparable and I think Nolan getting the yellow there fit the crime.

    3. The second penalty was soft, but Rosicky did extend his arms and push Williamson. I have seen those decisions go either way so up to the official’s discretion there.

    4. Barton did get away with a little playacting on the foul that lead to the free kick which Tiote scored with the sublime volley.

    All in all I think Dowd did a decent job in a tricky match. Bit of Gooner sour grapes for most imo.

  14. Earl Reed

    February 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I think that this sums up my perspective for the most part, besides a couple of points:

    A) I think that, if you’re going to send off Abu Diaby for pushing Barton to the ground, you have to send off Kevin Nolan for throwing Szczesny to the ground. As was pointed out in the Guardian weekly podcast, Newcastle United has no right to the ball at that point, and it’s the referee’s prerogative to discipline players for time-wasting.

    B) I think Barton should have been given a yellow for involving the trailing leg in his tackle of Diaby.

    From the standpoint of an observer without investment in either team, it seemed that Dowd was looking to make a match of it after the half. He gave Newcastle the benefit of the doubt in most crucial situations, and the only glaring one that went against Newcastle was an assistant’s decision. It takes a lot of audacity to award a second penalty, especially after disqualifying a player from the infringing team. One would hope that the Premier League and FIFA thoroughly inspect the evidence regarding the decisions in this match, because to me Phil Dowd has at least brought his competency into question, if not his integrity.

  15. Robert Hay

    February 11, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Gaffer –

    You didn’t include any thoughts on the Szczesny/Nolan yellow cards. That was a huge gripe on Arsenal sites after the match – did Nolan deserve a red for the push/headlock?

    Just curious

    • The Gaffer

      February 11, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Robert, Nolan deserved a yellow card for the push/headlock, so I believe the correct punishment was issued. Szczesy was time-wasting, so his yellow card was justified too.

      The Gaffer

      • Stenerud

        February 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm


        Szczesny was time wasting? It was 3.5 seconds between the time Szczesny picked up the ball from the back of the net and when has was collared by Nolan. It was also Arsenal’s kick-off, not Newcastle’s. A yellow card for 3.5 seconds? And Szczesny was obligated to give the ball to Nolan and Barton? You should then give a yellow card to every single EPL goalkeeper who retrieves the ball from their own net after a goal kick. They inevitably hold onto the ball more than 3.5 seconds. Your observation that Szczesny was wasting time doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

      • jonathan

        February 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm

        yeah, a yellow card for ‘time wasting’ is a load if i’ve ever heard one. how about the countless times goal keepers take goal kicks from the opposite side of the six yard box? where are their yellow cards. fact is, nolan’s headlock was way more aggressive than diaby’s push he could have broken szczensy’s neck.

        but i do agree that while arsenal were very, very unlucky with some of the calls, it is down to AW and the squad to show the commitment to lock down the win. I also think he made the wrong subs. why take off walcott who was the biggest problem for newcastle? why bring on rosiscky when he has been out of form all season? hope to move on from this asap. they don’t need to carry this draw into the upcoming month, it’s a doozy.

  16. gazzap

    February 11, 2011 at 7:58 am

    I think the result was right. Best may have touched it with a hand but it wasn’t deliberate and it rightly stood. Newc scored a good goal that was ruled offside but then scored a very soft penalty that should not have been given. I dont think contact between players equals a foul, and it certainly wasn’t a push.
    So 4-4 was correct.
    But Nolan probably should have got a yellow for pushing Diaby because Diaby got a red for two pushes. Nolan later got booked for pushing Szczesny. He would have been sent off. Newc would not have come back had it been 10 a side. But Diaby was totally at fault for reacting, and I would say Diaby cost Arsenal the game much more than the ref did.

  17. Leo

    February 11, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Newscastle fans, of course you have nothing to complain about, you are all looking through rose coloured glasses. The fact is Barton is nothing more than a thug and you know it, but have to support him because he wears your colours. Search deep down… you know… you know.

    Arsenal fans are just as fed up as Newcastle fans for the leg breaks they have had, and poor decisions in key games. This match was poorly called and Arsenal dropped points for it, which is great for me but i can see why Arsenal are feeling hard done by.

    Gooners, carry on moaning, hopefully something will be done about our backwards EPL approach to football. I will my team could play like yours, even if we have won more than you this last 5 years!!

    p.s it does not matter if you ‘win the ball’ or are first to get the ball if your follow through bents a leg. what if i put a peice of paper up against your face and punched it hard? “oh it doesnt matter as i only punched the paper”

  18. Peter

    February 11, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Simple thing is that even a man down at 4-0 Arsenal/Wenger should have shut the game down, with less than 45 mins remaining you have to blame Wenger and his tactics. Quibbling over whether it should have been 4-4 or 4-3 is irrelevant, a manager of Arsene’s experience should have done a lot better than this.

  19. Porciestreet

    February 11, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I tell you what, I have lost a lot of respect for Arsenal fans following all the ranting over last weeks match . Just get over it you bunch of winging git,s. If you had had to suffer the sh!t that we at Newcastle have had to put up with for years and tears you would have something to moan about.!!

    • iib

      February 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

      Sorry, but being mismanaged (to put it mildly) by an irresponsible owner does not give any referee latitude to “even the playing field” in any game. it is not the referee’s job to give the fans something to cheer about. His job is to make the same in-game decisions at 0-4 as he would at 0-0.

  20. Porciestreet

    February 11, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Thank God that Best,s “offside” goal was,nt given or there would be dead gooners all over london, and we wouldnt like to be responsible for that now would we. I don,t actually see it as sour grapes like the rest of the country, more like Gooner blind faith, just as it would have been if everything had been the other way round and Newcastle had shamelessly collapsed. All very hypothetical I know, but for goodness sake , get over it and move on.What,s it going to be like when you finish seccond in the league and loose in the cup final. Get ready for the funeral I suppose. Howay the Lads.

  21. king gooner

    February 11, 2011 at 6:06 am for fat phyllis dowd-don’t get me started-a “homer”if there ever was one!

  22. king gooner

    February 11, 2011 at 6:03 am

    don’t know what clip of the match mr milburn(relation to jackie?)was watching when it came to st joeys “tackle”on diaby-but in any clip i’ve watched ,he most def left the ground with a clear follow through,so much so,diabys leg bent & if had not tried to avoid tackle would have been another leg break-what we used to call a”reducer”-st joey knew exactly what he was up to & unfortunately diaby fell for it-but you could understand his reaction to a degree -given that he’s had his leg snapped oop north before..what the media lovingly call “robust”-covers a multitude of sins does that hey?

    • Dave C

      February 11, 2011 at 9:41 am

      I assume you were equally outraged by all the tackles made by Vieira and Petit back in the days when Arsenal actually won things?

  23. Porciestreet

    February 11, 2011 at 6:01 am

    To say that Williamson was “looking for the decision” is a bit of a misnomer because is it not the case that 95% of penalty decisions today are given to players who are looking for it. Tossers like Andy Gray have made it ok for players to do this when they make comments like”hes looking for the touch before he goes to ground” making it a legality for players to cheat in this fashion. You only have to breathe on players like Drogba for instance for him to drop like a bag of cement. This form of cheating makes it extremely dificult for referees to make the correct call, and until the FA (laughs) and TV punditry makes a stand and outwardly condemn it, the cheats will continue to prosper and it will become even less of a sport .Howay the Lads.

    • Dave C

      February 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

      What’s wrong with “looking for it”. All sports involve “looking for” (or causing) your opponent to make a mistake. Whether that mistake be to miss a shot, drop a ball, whiff a tackle or commit a foul, there’s nothing illegal about it.

  24. john

    February 11, 2011 at 5:55 am

    I’m a Man U fan. Dowd was rubbish

    What did Barton say to Diaby? Should have been a red for Barton anyway and then Diaby wouldn’t have over-reacted to him and Nolans efforts to get him sent off!

    Dubious penalty and hand ball. Arsenal were robbed ha ha ha

    • Dave C

      February 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Who says Barton said ANYTHING to Diaby? And even if he did say something, even if it was the most vile utterence ever to emerge from a man’s lips in human history, raising your hands and pushing people around like that in retaliation is still a red card.

      • P A U L

        February 12, 2011 at 9:10 am

        If “raising your hands and pushing people around” is an automatic red then why didn’t Kevin Nolan get a red for putting his hands around Sczesny’s neck?

  25. Doctapaul

    February 11, 2011 at 5:52 am

    How was Barton’s tackle a foul – he got to the ball first and his leading foot was planted firmly on the ground. Diaby was second and sideways on and rolled. But he went into Barton too – no foul, either way.
    A push from two arms raised is a penalty – or are we going to allow players to push one another gently? 🙂
    and as for Best’s hand ball – pah?
    Arsene style sour grapes?

  26. Mark Milburn

    February 11, 2011 at 5:44 am

    not sure about this report tbh, there is no way bartons tackle on diaby was reckless… didnt leave the floor, one footed and won the ball completely!

    Handball by best for his goal?! leave it out!

    • Dave C

      February 11, 2011 at 9:35 am

      Yeah I was surprised by that too – I don’t remember ANYONE else claiming there was a handball in the build-up to Best’s goal. Although to be fair I never saw it (having foolishly switched channel at half-time, in the belief that the result was no longer in doubt).

      I’m also conflicted about Barton’s foul/tackle. It was one footed, and I don’t think the studs were raised. I would say he “left the ground”, but only in the same sense that a person running “leaves the ground” between each step – he didn’t exactly jump into the tackle any more than Diaby did. But it did feel somehow “reckless”. Which shows how stupid the rules are nowadays – completely reliant on the referees subjective opinion of whether something is dangerous or reckless, rather than the cold hard facts of whether somebody got the ball first or not.

      • The Gaffer

        February 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

        I spent a lot of time watching the match, more so than I usually do for most matches, so I reviewed the game looking for incidents that happened. But Leon Best definitely handled the ball.

        The Gaffer

      • R2Dad

        February 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

        Missing the point. Careless-plain foul. Reckless-yellow card. Excessive force-red card. The FA has trained PL referees to ignore excessive force, so many referees, players and fans only focus on whether they got the ball, if there were studs up, etc.

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