Ref Review: Referees struggle to keep up with the penalties

Alex Vryzakis highlights referees’ inconsistency in making penalty decisions during the course of another eventful weekend of Premier League action.
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Marriner finds redemption

Game: Liverpool 2-2 Newcastle

Ref: Andre Marriner

Often, referees have games that are difficult to judge. The may make a great call that allows the fans to accept that maintaining a referee’s integrity is important. But just a moment later, they can suddenly shatter that illusion of confidence and experience by making a blunder to call their every move into question. Much like goalkeepers, they just can’t win.

Andre Marriner had one such afternoon on Saturday, though his bad call came first, allowing the good call to leave the lasting impression. Let’s get the bad out of the way first: it was a routine penalty that should have been given. As Ayoze Pérez terrorised Liverpool’s defence, the young – and clearly impulsive – Connor Randall threw himself at the striker. Unfortunately, he attempted to dive in head first at knee height… what he was trying to achieve is anyone’s guess. Considering that Perez was knocked down, it was astonishing that Marriner waved play on. It was a bizarre call, although perhaps he should have received more guidance from his linesman.

Later on came Marriner’s redemption. As Daniel Sturridge rushed into the penalty area, it seemed that Cheick Tioté had put his foot in clumsily and fouled the striker. Replays showed that Sturridge had made a meal of the whole incident and looked to have dived in the hope of obtaining a penalty. Marriner’s disinterest proved spot on, though he should perhaps have carded the forward for his dishonest behaviour.

Grade: B-. A fairly solid performance despite the early penalty miss.

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A tale of two handballs

Game: Sunderland 0-0 Arsenal

Ref: Mike Dean

Handball is perhaps the most contentious of incidents in a football game. While offside calls and general fouls are usually accepted to be at the discretion of the referee, handball decisions remain confusing and unclear. Sunderland’s clash with the Gunners at the Stadium of Light even prompted one commenter to remark “What do you have to do to get a handball around here?”

And yet Mike Dean stuck to his guns. The game saw two clear handballs in opposite penalty boxes, and the ref remained unmoved. It was an interesting state of affairs.

The first came as Jermaine Defoe’s lashed shot struck the arm of an unsuspecting Per Mertesacker. Replays showed that the big German defender turned to block the ex-Spurs player’s attempt, but in doing so put his arm in the ball’s path. The replays also revealed that the ref was in an excellent position to judge the incident, and that he immediately waved play on.

The second handball occurred with the sides switched, this time Arsenal having their appeals denied. As Alex Iwobi fired off a shot in Sunderland’s box the ball careened off of DeAndre Yedlin’s flailing arm. True, the defender was throwing himself in the way without much care for flailing limbs, but the ball struck his arm and it should have been a penalty.

Though it will be of little consolation to the two teams, Mike Dean at least remained consistent in his decision-making. But it shows just how badly regulated the rules on handballs are, as pundits continue to argue over decisions given and not given long after the final whistle blows.

Grade: C. While he was consistent, the two incidents appeared to be worthy of penalties.

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Madley matures with Man City decision

Game: Manchester City 4-0 Stoke

Ref: Robert Madley

Being young and inexperienced tends to be a rather negative state of affairs for referees. Fans call into question your credentials, while players dismiss your decisions as fanciful. It can be tough in the Premier League. Yet Bobby Madley continues to maintain his composure, and his showing during Man City’s sinking of a subpar Stoke was no different.

The game had few contentious incidents, but Madley’s one big call was so casual and easy that it seemed almost improbable. As Kelechi Iheanacho drove towards goal, Ryan Shawcross decided to stick an arm out and block his path. It was clear obstruction, but penalties are rarely awarded for such infractions in the grand scheme of things. Madley though, was having none of it and calmly pointed to the spot. It was almost apologetic, that’s how certain he was of his decision.

This was a referee that nobody was going to argue with, and with good reason.

Grade: B+. A calm showing from a referee who is maturing.


Read more from Alex here.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexVryzakis

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