Ref Review: Referees struggle to close the Premier League season on a high

Alex Vryzakis runs the rule over the referee performances on the last matchday of the season.

Mitrović gives Taylor a headache

Game: Newcastle 5-1 Tottenham

Ref: Anthony Taylor

As the season reached its conclusion this weekend, many referees would’ve been forgiven for thinking that this would mean an end to dramatics on the field. Newcastle, however, had other ideas. Perhaps it was their way of bidding farewell to the Premier League?

Anthony Taylor found himself with an astonishing amount to do, as Aleksandar Mitrović terrorised Spurs’ apathetic defence. Mitrović’s first bite of the cherry came as he crashed into a defender in the hopes of getting a foul just outside the box. Nothing doing from Taylor, though Mitrović’s death stare could well have changed many a mind.

The Serbian’s next incident was not so easily let go. As Kyle Walker dallied with the ball near the touchline, Mitrović dived in with excessive force. Replays showed that the tackle had been high and hard, scraping his studs down Walker’s shin. It was without doubt a leg-breaker, surely causing Aaron Ramsey to wince that evening during Match of the Day. Mitrović feigned injury in the hopes of escaping punishment, but after conferring with his linesman, Taylor correctly sent the Serb off. It was astute refereeing of a very tricky player.

Unfortunately for the ref though, it wasn’t to be all smiles and clever decisions. As Newcastle fought to retain their lead against a resurgent Spurs side in the second half, Moussa Sissoko broke into the opponent’s box. Eric Dier appeared to stick out a leg and Sissoko hit the turf with a resounding thud. Taylor immediately pointed to the spot amid fervent protests. Had Taylor been able to replay the incident, he would have seen that Dier in fact never made contact with the French striker’s leg, and had instead pulled out of the tackle entirely. Sissoko had dived in spectacular fashion, ultimately duping the referee.

Incidents such as this cause us to pause and think seriously about video being introduced into the modern game. Without it, injustices will continue to occur, and dives will go unpunished.

Grade: C. After starting so brightly, Taylor made an unforgivable blunder by giving the penalty.

Dean causes chaos at the Liberty

Game: Swansea 1-1 Manchester City

Ref: Mike Dean

While Spurs appeared to have already punched out for the season at St. James’ Park, it was Mike Dean who seemed to be already dreaming of beaches and fun in the sun during Swansea’s clash with Man City. While few incidents demanded his attention, there was complete chaos and confusion after some lacklustre officiating.

City’s opening goal was contentious, and yet it’s hard to see why. After Sergio Aguero’s shot rebounded off of goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Kelechi Iheanacho turned it in. As the striker wheeled off to celebrate, Dean signalled that the goal was to be ruled out – for what exactly, remained a mystery. Replays showed that Stephen Kingsley, who was on the ground near the goal line at the time of the shot, had played Iheanacho onside. Suddenly Dean reversed his decision and gave the goal. It was a bizarre moment, and the home fans were not best pleased with the referee’s raising of their hopes.

Then came Swansea’s turn to be denied a goal. As Jefferson Montero headed in the ball, Dean adjudged that the Ecuadorian had pushed Bacary Sagna. The replays showed that contact was minimal and the decision could only be seen as a lucky let-off for City. Who knows what would have happened had Dean let the goal stand.

Grade: C-. A confused performance from a referee we have come to expect more from.

Oliver led astray

Game: Southampton 4-1 Crystal Palace

Ref: Michael Oliver

Often, referees are harangued and accused of not making use of their assistants during games. It seems that they have taken this criticism to heart, and recent weeks have seen refs pause and reflect before throwing themselves into an important decision. Unfortunately for Michael Oliver, and despite his best intentions, this instinct seems to have led him astray.

As Sadio Mané was brought down in the vicinity of the penalty box by Adrian Mariappa and Pape Souaré, Oliver immediately put his hand to his microphone, asking the linesman his view of the situation. This highlights that Oliver must have been uncertain as to whether it was actually a penalty, for if it had been obvious he would have pointed to the spot immediately.

As it stood, the linesman clearly thought it was a spotkick, and so Oliver signalled for the penalty. And yet, replays showed that the initial contact, and in fact the bulk of it, was outside the box. It should simply have been a free kick outside the area, and Oliver seemed to think so originally.

Football is a funny game, and perhaps sometimes two heads are not better than one.

Grade: B-. Oliver should not shoulder all the blame after listening to the linesman.

Read more from Alex here

Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexVryzakis

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