Alex Vryzakis looks back at the two most talked-about refereeing performances of the weekend, with Michael Oliver giving Leicester a leg-up in their march to the title and Mark Clattenburg receiving an unnecessary amount of flack for a tricky decision.
Southampton denied at the King Power
Leicester 1-0 Southampton
Ref: Michael Oliver
Winning the league can be the culmination of many different things. From talent to dumb luck, it takes all sorts to rise to the summit of the Premier League, never mind stay there long enough to claim the title. Leicester have been a perfect example of this wonderful phenomenon, but if they do hold the trophy aloft come May, Michael Oliver’s helping hand must not be forgotten.
The first big question arose as Southampton’s Sadio Mané charged at Kasper Schmeichel’s goal. Having weaved his way round the keeper, the Saints striker looked certain to score. All of a sudden, Danny Simpson swept in front, blocking the path to goal. Mane’s shot then careened off the defender’s arm, preventing the goal.
Southampton immediately pleaded with the referee, though Oliver seemed entirely uninterested. It was baffling, as replays showed that Simpson’s arm moved down towards the ball, clearly impeding the goalscoring opportunity. Pundits suggested Simpson’s forward motion was the cause, but Schmeichel senior’s assertion that the rule on handball should be changed to something more exact seemed apt.
Having denied Southampton the chance for a penalty, Oliver then went on to give Leicester the benefit of the doubt in the run up to their goal. As the ball was lifted into the general vicinity of Leicester’s captain Wes Morgan, the big defender clearly shoved Jordy Clasie in the back, preventing him from challenging for the ball and stopping the goal. It was an obvious foul, and Oliver’s disinterest was truly baffling. Perhaps Morgan and Clasie’s differing statures may have impacted the referee’s decision, but it was a pretty unforgivable miss on his part.
As the game went on, various other incidents occurred – namely a Robert Huth handball that could easily have been given as a penalty for obstructing an obvious chance – and Southampton’s resolve dwindled.
This was a day to forget for Oliver, but maybe it was simply meant to be Leicester’s very lucky day.
Grade: D. Denying the penalty was bad enough, but allowing Morgan’s goal simply rubbed salt intp Southampton’s wounds.
Clattenburg is under pressure again
West Ham 2-2 Crystal Palace
Ref: Mark Clattenburg
It is an unfortunate truth that referees tend to get the short end of the stick. Whether they give the penalty or refuse to even look a player’s way, they are accused of being biased or of cheating. One man who is no stranger to controversy is Mark Clattenburg, and West Ham’s clash with Palace was no different.
The moment of the match came when Cheikhou Kouyate crashed into Dwight Gayle. Clattenburg’s initial reaction was to brandish the red card immediately, without so much as pausing to chat to his assistant referees. The players were up in arms, and replays showed that Kouyate’s leading foot had shown studs and had been fairly high. Whether it was reckless is difficult to discern, especially for a ref at full speed. Both managers bemoaned the harshness of the card, but his decision to give Kouyate his marching orders was perfectly understandable under the circumstances.
This is, once again, a relatively grey area in football law. Many challenges that seem to deserve straight reds go unpunished, while leniency is denied to the lesser fouls. As the decisions are at the discretion of the ref, it is hard to implement consistency in decision-making, and perhaps Clattenburg deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Grade: B-. Kouyate did show his studs, which can be dangerous.
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