A Bad Weekend For Match Officials: Reviewing the Premier League Referee Decisions, Gameweek 21

Starting at St James’ Park, where the most controversial decision of the weekend took place. Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote hit a superb strike, which flew into the net, following a corner. There were three Newcastle players in an offside position as the ball left Tiote’s boot. As soon as the Newcastle players and fans celebrated the goal, Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart appealed for offside to the assistant referee. Referee Mike Jones communicated to his linesman via his earpiece before running over to discuss the decision.

To me, it looked a perfectly good goal and I was surprised when it was disallowed. The assistant referee initially did not raise his flag, which indicates that he either didn’t spot Yoan Gouffran in an offside position, or he didn’t deem him to be interfering with play. On replay, you can see Joe Hart shouting at the assistant “I couldn’t see anything”.

The picture below shows that the only players in the England number 1’s vision were Manchester City players. Gouffran is nowhere near Hart’s eye line. Mike Jones is in a decent position, but the force of the strike was so much that he was possibly taken aback at how quickly the City players disputed the goal.

Gouffran does move out of the way of the ball before it strikes the net as Hart was clearly beaten and made no attempt to dive it is hard to make a case for Gouffran being active and interfering with play. It would have been different had the ball hit Gouffran and deflected in. I think Mike Jones has made a bad call that has resulted in him being dropped for this weekend’s games. However, former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher believes that the officials came to the right decision. Speaking on Sky Sports News’ Monday View, Gallagher argued that Gouffran moving out of the way of the ball made him active. Therefore he was in an offside position. The laws of the game state:

A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

•        interfering with play or
•       interfering with an opponent or
•       gaining an advantage by being in that position

I am certain that Gouffran was not committing any of the above offences.

In the same game, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa made a very late challenge on Samir Nasri, which has resulted in the Frenchman being sidelined for eight weeks. Yanga-Mbiwa initially fouled Nasri from behind, before kicking out and swiping his left leg into Nasri’s knee. The Newcastle defender can count himself very fortunate to only receive a yellow card.

Moving on to Sunday’s thriller between Stoke City and Liverpool, which ended 5-3 to Liverpool, referee Anthony Taylor awarded Liverpool a penalty with the score 2-2. Raheem Sterling was brought down in Taylor’s view by Marc Wilson. For me, I didn’t think it was a penalty at real time speed. The closer camera angle lead me to the conclusion that it wasn’t a foul and merely a collision between players. However, looking at the referee’s perspective, I can understand why he gave the penalty, but help from his assistant was required, not only for the penalty, but for the handball by Sterling prior to the penalty award. Sterling’s arm was raised and the ball connected with the youngster. The ref had a very difficult view to make a decision from, looking straight into the back of Sterling. The linesman had a much better view and I think it was a poor decision to let the game carry on, where a dubious penalty appeal could have been avoided.

West Ham secured a much needed win with a 2-0 victory to Cardiff in Ole Gunnar Solskaer’s first league game since Malky Mackay’s harsh sacking. Again, West Ham had a player sent off, this time it was James Tomkins who was sent for an early bath by Lee Mason. The first of his 2 yellows was for a reckless tackle on Frazier Campbell. The ball was passed Tomkins before he slid in, making no contact with the ball. No arguments about the yellow card. Shortly afterwards, with the score line still at 1-0 Tomkins again fouled Campbell, with a high boot that caught the former Manchester United and Sunderland striker in the face. It was a clumsy attempt for the ball and Mason correctly sent Tomkins off, with the help of his assistant.

Cardiff did have two penalty claims turned down though. The first was a correct decision as George McCartney’s arms were down and in a natural position when the ball hit the defender, following a shot that McCartney was not far away from. The second appeal is more controversial. In a previous referees article I mentioned that fouls in the penalty box need to stop and this was highlighted again when Campbell was involved with a tussle with McCartney, where he had both arms around Campbell, not allowing him to move. For me, a certain penalty, but I get the impression that referees are letting incidents like these happen. Not the correct way to assess those situations in my view.

Two more penalty decisions will conclude the latest instalment of controversial Premier League refereeing decisions. In Sunderland’s much needed 4-1 win away at fellow strugglers Fulham, Phillippe Senderos brought down Jozy Altidore with the score 3-1. The tackle was unnecessary in my opinion, with not much support around the big USA striker. The tackle was late summed up the frustrations the home side were showing. In Tottenham’s 2-0 home victory against Crystal Palace, the visitors had an early chance to score from the spot after a late foul on Marouanne Chamakh from Moussa Dembele. There was not much contact, but enough for a penalty to be awarded by Michael Oliver, who has been very consistent in recent weeks and made another great decision here. Jason Puncheon couldn’t convert the penalty and in somewhat comical circumstances, skied the ball very and certainly not handsome!

Editor’s note: Read reviews of key referee decisions from previous Premier League weeks.

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