Ref Review: Leicester penalty was soft, Burnley denied a stonewaller and Watford man rightfully sent packing

Alex Vryzakis and former professional referee Mark Halsey run the rule over the referee performances on the opening day of the Premier League season.

Dean trips up at the KC Stadium

Game: Hull 2 – 1 Leicester

Ref: Mike Dean 

It wouldn’t be a brand-spanking new Premier League season if there wasn’t some controversy to shake things up. And shaken up is just what reigning champions Leicester were on Saturday afternoon, despite Mike Dean’s efforts of course.

Newly-promoted Hull City came into the game with just 13 fit players, and Leicester were a shoo-in to take home the victory. Yet Mike Phelan’s men rallied, hitting Claudio Ranieri’s men with pace, clever play and double bicycle-kicks galore.

Then, just 14 seconds into the second half, Dean made a bizarre call. As Demarai Gray charged towards goal, Hull’s Tom Huddlestone found himself with little option but to foul the young winger. The big man lumbered forwards and clearly impeded the Leicester City man by treading on his heel. The sound of a whistle was expected. The thrusting of the finger towards to the spot however, was not.

Replays of the incident confirmed that the initial contact occurred way out of the box, and that Gray fell into the box after the fact. Dean’s dramatic awarding of a penalty looked all the more foolish. Though Robert Snodgrass spared the ref’s blushes soon after, he will be displeased to have committed such a blunder so early in the season.

Grade: C. The call could have cost three invaluable points for a struggling Hull side.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

Whether it’s soft or not, you have to look at it and ask ‘is it still a foul?’ You can argue and say that it was but you can also say the foul was outside the box and it should have only been a free-kick.

Mike Dean’s in a great position, it’s unlike Mike because he doesn’t get a lot of big match decisions wrong but I think he’ll be disappointed with that one.

Shenanigans catch Moss off-guard

Game: Burnley 0 – 1 Swansea

Ref: Jonathan Moss

It seemed impossible for Sean Dyche’s voice to get any deeper and any more gravelly, and yet referee Jon Moss’ poor performance at Turf Moor helped the Burnley boss to dig deeper and find his inner wrath.

Dyche was not wrong either, as Moss committed the exact opposite offence to Mike Dean earlier in the day. As Dean misjudged Tom Huddleston’s tackle, Moss appeared to turn a blind eye to obvious cheating in the box.

As the teams vied for the ball during a Burnley corner-kick, eventual goal-scorer Leroy Fer grabbed at Michael Keane’s shirt. While tugging and general misbehaviour is a given in the penalty box, Fer’s grab was as obvious a foul as there will ever be. The replays were unkind, showing the extent to which the player impeded Keane from running to the ball, shirt stretching almost to breaking point.

If Jon Moss, as experienced a referee as you could hope for, cannot see this blatant act of cheating for what it was, what hope for the rest?

Grade: B-. Offences in the box must begin to be properly punished.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

It was an absolutely nailed on penalty for Burnley. Sean Dyche was spot on, he could see it so why on earth Jon Moss and his assistant haven’t seen that, well we’d have to ask them.

The assistant can see straight across the line, he’s got a great angle to see that shirt pull. There’s a certain amount of pulling that is accepted but they’re the sort of incidents we need to picking up on because that should have ended up in a penalty.

Friend sets precedent at the Riverside

Game: Middlesbrough 1 – 1 Stoke

Ref: Kevin Friend

Ending on a good note is the least this column can do. And for all the negativity about punishments and cheating, Kevin Friend has become the unlikely champion of all things just.

While Boro’s dogged defence denied Stoke’s three-pronged attack the winner, it was Friend’s decision-making that attracted attention. On two separate occasions the ref showed a yellow card to players for remonstrating with him, and he didn’t even flinch while doing it.

The first incident occurred as Stoke goalkeeper ran out to berate Friend for giving a foul to Boro. Given ran an incredible distance just to tell the ref off, and was rightly booked for his troubles. The second incident unsurprisingly involved Marko Arnautovic, Stoke’s imposing Austro-Serbian striker. Incredibly, Arnautovic began to shout at Friend despite having been awarded the freekick. It is almost as if the players were asking to go into the book.

Friend looked unflustered however, disinterestedly raising the yellow card in the player’s direction before turning to deal with more important matters. It may seem like an obvious job for a referee to do, but seldom do we see Premier League players being held accountable for their behaviour on the pitch.

Friend set an important precedent this weekend, and should be praised for it.

Grade: A-. An astute refereeing performance to start this new season off right.

Mark Halsey Verdict

We’ve had incidents like this in the past, we need to manage the players when you think of incidents like Joe Hart and Michael Oliver a couple of years ago. The same referee had an incident with Angel Di Maria, you can’t do that. Bang – red card.

We’ve been lenient in that area in the past, in regards to Kevin Friend you’ve got Shay Given running 30 yards out of his goal and what does he need to do that for? Marko Arnautovic wins a free-kick and he’s having a go at the referee, why is he doing that? He’s already won the free-kick so I think Kevin Friend was spot on, those are the situations where players need to control themselves.

Decision of the Week (Ben Watson) – Mark Halsey

Had that been inside the box, that still would have been a red card under the new laws. You have to make a genuine attempt to play the ball and he’s made no attempt.

Outside the box that’s a red card all day along and any deliberate attempt to foul a player inside the box is still a red card in that situation. This law has been brought in more than anything for the goalkeeper, so we don’t see them sent off if they accidentally clip a player. If you come in for a foul and you’re a fraction of a second late then that’s where this new law comes in but Ben Watson’s was rightfully a red card.

Read more from Alex here

Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexVryzakis and Mark @RefereeHalsey

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