Ref Review: Big errors make an unwelcome appearance on Super Sunday

Alex Vryzakis picks the bones out of a weekend of officiating that saw some contentious decisions make a big impact on the Premier League title race.

Harsh decision gives Spurs a helping hand

Manchester City 1-2 Tottenham

Ref: Mark Clattenburg

City’s top of the table clash with Tottenham was the weekend’s last game, and what an important game it was for the title race. Both teams were desperate for a win to help them in their respective quests for the title, but in the end it was the ref who had the biggest say.

With the scoreline seemingly stuck at 0-0, Danny Rose attempted a venomous cross into the box. As the ball took flight, it struck Raheem Sterling and – to City’s dismay – Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot with almost no hesitation.

This was perplexing for a number of reasons. First off, the ref was in no position to be making that call so hastily, having no clear view of the incident as well as being a fair way from it. Secondly, the ball only travelled a very short distance to hit the edge of Sterling’s elbow, and the City player had turned his back on the ball in attempt to avoid handling it in any case. And, to top it off, replays showed that it was unclear whether the incident had even occurred in the box.

Pundits speculated on whether Clattenburg had received advice from his assistant, but however you look at it the decision was a baffling one.

Grade: C. Awarding the penalty was not the referee’s finest moment.

Atkinson riles everybody at the Emirates

Game: Arsenal 2-1 Leicester

Ref: Martin Atkinson

Boos rang out at the end of the season-defining clash at the Emirates, but this time they were not aimed at the players. Martin Atkinson and his colleagues angered both sets of fans as a bad-tempered match threatened to boil over.

While the penalty awarded to Leicester was soft but justifiable, the Gunners were right to be angered when they were denied a spot-kick after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross struck N’Golo Kante’s arm. The determining factor was that Kante’s arm moved towards the ball and clearly impeded the ball’s flight. It was strange that nothing was given, despite Atkinson conversing at length with his linesman.

This was also a match punctuated by bitty, nasty tackles, and Atkinson struggled to deal with the various challenges flying in. While one tackle was deemed to be deserving of nothing more than a telling off and a slap on the wrist, an identical one moments later was rewarded with a booking. This inconsistency was most obvious in the early stages of the second half, as Danny Simpson was sent off for a rather soft second bookable offence, and a flurry of cards was doled out as Atkinson struggled to control flaring tempers.

Atkinson showed himself to be rather weak, both in his decision-making and in his resolve, as he found himself influenced by the home crowd’s howls of disbelief. It seems he is lacking in a fundamental department: self-confidence.

Grade: C-. A shaky refereeing performance that could well have affected the title race in a big way.

Eagle-eyed Madley gets it spot on

Game: Crystal Palace 1-2 Watford

Ref: Robert Madley

Referees are usually the first port of call for disgruntled fans, especially when they believe their teams have been wronged. Sometimes however, the officials spot things that many have missed, proving that perhaps giving them the benefit of the doubt in some cases would be beneficial.

A quarter of an hour into Crystal Palace’s clash with Watford saw referee Robert Madley correctly intervene. As a corner by Ben Watson flew into the penalty box, the usual melée of pushing and shoving began. To everyone’s surprise, Madley pointed to the spot, having spotted Mile Jedinak’s heavy-handed attempt to contain Troy Deeney. It was a clear penalty and Madley did superbly to spot the foul.

A much more obvious call for the ref came in the shape of Pape Souaré. A late lunge on Watford’s Valon Behrami saw Souaré basically scythe down the midfielder. There could have been no other punishment but a red card, as the tackle was clearly dangerous and wild.

Grade: B. It was a valiant and insightful refereeing performance from Madley.

Read more from Alex here

Follow Alex at @AlexVryzakis

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