Ref Review: Referees regain control as season nears end

Alex Vryzakis rounds up the refereeing performances of the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season.

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Marriner in control at the King Power

Game: Leicester 3-1 Everton

Ref: Andre Marriner

It would be safe to wager that Everton’s visit to the King Power stadium was the best match referee Andre Marriner could have hoped for this weekend. Not only were Leicester to be crowned Champions that day, but Everton had little left to play for. The conditions were perfect for an incident-free afternoon – and it nearly was.

From the off, Leicester played with the attacking verve crowds so crave. Everton were, in comparison, woefully sluggish and unequipped to deal with Jamie Vardy et al. As the Foxes hungrily chased their prey, Everton’s defenders scrambled to at least seem as if they were doing something. And yet, on two occasions, Marriner was forced to signal for very obvious penalties.

The first came as Matthew Pennington fouled Golden Boot hopeful Vardy in the box, knocking his leg away instead of the ball. Though the striker fell in invariably dramatic fashion, it was always going to be a pen, and Marriner was almost apologetic as he gestured to the spot.

Incredibly, the second penalty was perhaps even more of an obvious decision. As Jeff Schlupp hurtled into the box, Darron Gibson felled him in almost too rash a fashion. Replays showed the two men colliding emphatically, and Gibson knew immediately what Marriner had to do.

It was undoubtedly Leicester’s day, and Marriner’s calm and assured performance ensured that.

Grade: B-. Calm and collected display, though the obvious calls detract slightly.

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Jones in no mood to sugar-coat

Game: Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea

Ref: Mike Jones

A while back, it was posited that experience and age does not a perfect referee make. Sunderland’s surprise win over Chelsea was to be the ideal stage for John Terry to prove that this statement seemingly also applies to footballers. And veterans at that!

As it was, Terry left Mike Jones with little choice. In fact, Jones was in no mood to play games, as evidenced by his brandishing of a yellow card to Chelsea’s Gary Cahill in just the first minute of the match after the defender had pulled Jermain Defoe’s shirt while in pursuit of the striker. Jones meant business.

While Terry’s first yellow was a run-of-the-mill tackle, the second was an astonishing high-kick on Wahbi Khazri. Not only was the tackle ridiculous in the extreme, it was also in the fifth minute of extra time, and Jones had been thinking about blowing for full time. The wild tackle once again left the official with no choice, and Terry got his marching orders, stomping off the pitch like a petulant child.

Jones had been given no choice, and Terry knew that.

Grade: B. Jones stood his ground well in a feisty match where everything was to play for.

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Friend stands his ground effectively

Game: Crystal Palace 2-1 Stoke

Ref: Kevin Friend

While Stoke’s attempts at Selhurst Park seemed misguided at best, referee Kevin Friend managed to emerge smelling of nothing but roses. As Dwight Gayle stated his intent to play in the upcoming FA Cup final, Friend made strides in being seen as one of the most competent Premier League referees.

Firstly, we must give praise where it is due, even if the incident seems obvious. In the run-up to Palace’s first goal, Yannick Bolasie produced one of the most impressive runs of the season. As he bobbed and weaved through the Stoke defence, the players took turns to take swipes. Credit should therefore be given to Friend for not blowing the whistle, instead waiting for an advantage to emerge – and emerge it did. Gayle’s subsequent goal was a thing of beauty, and Friend played his part.

In a more convoluted incident, Friend once again made the right decision, even if he could well have been swayed but the crowd, as Gayle was bundled over in the last third by Phil Bardsley. Replays suggested that the contact had in fact occurred outside the box, and Friend’s dismissal of penalty appeals turned out to be correct.

It was a surprisingly astute decision, crowning his measured afternoon.

Grade: B+. An all-round competent performance from Friend.

Read more from Alex here!

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