Alex Vryzakis struggles to comprehend just how poor a show of officiating it was when Southampton took on Stoke at the Britannia on Saturday.
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Stoke 1-2 Southampton
Ref: Lee Mason
The only positive element that Lee Mason can take away from this clash is that his errors did not adversely affect the result, or indeed Southampton’s win. It was as if the referee was simply unable to make any sort of call resembling the correct one, baffling both players and fans alike at the Britannia.
The first major incident came when Dusan Tadic clashed quite heavily with Jack Butland in the box. As the Saints player came racing into the area, the goalkeeper made the rash decision to rush out for it, knocking the player in the process. Even without replays it was obvious that there had been contact (although Tadic’s dramatics could have been done without).
It was an obvious penalty decision.
It was therefore baffling to see Mason point for a goal-kick. Surely this meant that he deemed there to have been no contact between the two players, and therefore that Tadic had dived. But if that were the case, then he needed to send Tadic off with a second yellow. His indecision, neither giving a penalty nor a booking, showed a surprising lack of backbone, infuriating both teams.
But Mason made an even more mystifying decision late on in the match. As Southampton’s Sadio Mané and Stoke’s Erik Pieters both went for a high ball, there was a clash of heads – a fairly routine scene on a football field. Pieters came off worse and lay on the ground, but – for a reason unknown – Mason showed the astonished Mané a red card.
Both players had kept their eyes on the ball during the clash, and neither raised an elbow. To send off Mané for seemingly violent conduct was a crazy decision, and even the usual one-eyed Mark Hughes seemed baffled in his post-match interview.
This was a day that Mason will hope to quickly forget, as it seemed his lack of refereeing nouse was thoroughly and shockingly exposed.