Alex Vryzakis picks out three referees who caught the eye in the festive fixtures… although unfortunately not for the right reasons.
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Atkinson disappoints at Old Trafford
Game: Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
Ref: Martin Atkinson
You could be forgiven for not knowing that Martin Atkinson has been a referee in the Premier League for nearly ten years, given the dismal performance from the Bradford-born official. Though the match itself was lacking in exciting moments and colourful play, the officiating was so shocking that it could not go unnoticed.
The first big mistake came when Chelsea were attempting to clear the ball in a dangerous area in their own penalty box. As Willian attempted to deal with the situation, the midfielder seemed to control the ball with his left arm, cushioning it down in front of him. Atkinson was well within range and yet failed to notice the obvious handball, therefore failing to award the penalty that should have been given to Manchester United.
The referee’s second error was even more confusing. Late in the game, a desperate Wayne Rooney made a lunging tackle on Oscar, prompting Atkinson to produce a yellow for the striker. Replays showed that Rooney’s tackle was both reckless and high and breaking the Chelsea player’s leg was a distinct possibility.
Rooney should have been sent off, and the referee’s inability to produce the red card is incomprehensible.
Grade: D. Atkinson’s most disappointing performance this season.
Miscommunication costs Mason
Game: Newcastle 0-1 Everton
Ref: Lee Mason
While it is the referee’s job to oversee the game and make judgements, the assistant referees’ importance should not be forgotten. Unfortunately for Lee Mason, Saturday’s clash at St. James’ Park proved to be a day which saw him severely let down by his colleagues.
In a moment of madness during an otherwise uneventful match, Fabricio Coloccini grabbed ahold of striker Romelu Lukaku during an Everton attack. Almost as though he was unaware of being in the box at the time, the Argentine dragged the forward to the ground, so obviously that it was almost guaranteed that he would be reprimanded by the officials.
As it happened, Mason was too far away from the incident to be able to call it, and deferred to his linesman. But, incredibly, the official saw nothing wrong with the phase of play, leaving the Everton players incensed. It would be harsh to blame Mason in this instance though, as it was not his call. His linesman let him down, and it is he, not Mason, who should take the blame.
Grade: C. Though not entirely his fault, failing to award the penalty was a glaring error.
Moss lets the Gunners down
Game: Southampton 4-0 Arsenal
Ref: Jonathan Moss
Christmas football was not kind to referees this year. Much like Atkinson’s error-strewn display at Old Trafford, Jonathan Moss struggled to get any major decisions right when the Gunners visited St Mary’s on Saturday evening.
It seemed that three of Southampton’s goals came about unfairly, to varying degrees.
For the first, it was a question of offside. Even though Cuco Martina’s goal was an incredible wonder-strike, the build-up to the actual shot seemed to feature a passage of play where a Southampton player was offside as he geared up to receive the ball. Neither Moss nor the linesman took any notice of this fact, allowing the goal to stand.
The second goal was assisted by a much more obvious error. In the run-up to the goal, when the Saints players were charging at the Arsenal backline, Laurent Koscielny was cynically challenged and taken out of the game by Shane Long. Long then went on to score unchallenged, all due to his earlier foul. Again Moss paid no attention to the Arsenal pleas, though the replays clearly showed that Long had gone for the man and had not played the ball.
The last point of contention was something much smaller, as Southampton scored from a corner which should never have been, but it can serve to encapsulate Moss’ poor performance. Just as Atkinson’s experience should have served him better, Moss should have been more alert and observant.
Perhaps it was simply a bad day at the office for the seasoned official, but it was a costly one.
Grade: D. A performance Moss will want to forget.
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