Ref Review with Mark Halsey: Good decisions all round for Manchester City and Liverpool

Alex Vryzakis and former professional referee Mark Halsey from run the rule over the the latest batch of controversial decisions from the latest set of Premier League fixtures.

Swarbrick holds firm at the Liberty

Game: Swansea 1 – 3 Manchester City

Ref: Neil Swarbrick

Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of games involving the so-called ‘big four’ seems to be penalty decisions. Fans of smaller – and significantly less moneyed – teams bemoan the decisions that, in their view, always go in favour of the Premier League’s big boys.

Neil Swarbrick was faced with such a decision on Saturday afternoon, as Francesco Guidolin’s struggling Swansea side took on Pep Guardiola’s well-oiled machine. The inevitable City win was swift, yet there were moments where Sergio Aguero and co had to be reminded of their fallibility.

In the run up to Fernando Llorente’s storming leveller in the early stages of the game, Bacary Sagna hit the deck with unfortunate force. The defender immediately stuck his hand in the air to demand a foul and get the goal ruled out. Replays however, clearly showed he had simply slipped, and his feigning a foul was a ploy of the most common sort. Swarbrick was quick to wave away appeals and rightly so.

But it was early in the second half when Swansea came unstuck, with defender Mike van der Hoorn making a big error. As Kevin De Bruyne made a run towards goal, the Dutchman attempted to put his body in between De Bruyne and the ball, knocking the City man in the face in the process. Not only was the knock with his arm, his elbow got involved as well. Swarbrick gave a penalty and a yellow card to the dismayed defender but replays made it obvious that he had impeded the midfielder. How many times have we seen elbows in the face get a red card? Van der Hoorn was lucky and Swarbrick can’t be faulted.

Grade: B. Despite players best efforts, Swarbrick stuck to his guns

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

Neil is a great lad and a good referee. He’s not getting as many games as he should be but he turned in a very good performance. He did excellently for the penalty, it was nailed on.

But interestingly was it reckless use of the arm? The defender didn’t do much different to what Aguero got himself banned for so you could argue they were similar offences. But Neil handled it well and got the decision spot on.

Walk in the Liverpudlian park for Marriner

Game: Liverpool 5 – 1 Hull

Ref: Andre Marriner

Very seldom does a referee get to hear that a manager has no qualms about their decisions. Yet that is exactly what a resigned Mike Phelan pronounced after Liverpool’s thrashing of his struggling side. In fairness, the big incidents of the game were gifts that referees can only dream about. And it was Andre Marriner’s turn to head to the land of Nod.

With the early stages of the first half essentially being a Liverpool training game, with outstanding one-way traffic, it was inevitable that a Hull player would slip up. That is exactly what happened as Philippe Coutinho’s flying shot was parried not by the goalkeeper, but by Ahmed Elmohamady’s outstretched arm. Marriner had no choice but to send the Egyptian off and point to the spot. It was a handball so flagrant, Luis Suarez is being reminded of the Ghanaians all over again.

James Milner was then given the chance to score his second penalty of the day as Hull slipped up in the final third. Substitute Daniel Sturridge was looking dangerous in the box, and Andrew Robertson could do little but trip him up. This decision, upon viewing replays, may well have been a little soft but the referee can’t be faulted for giving the spotkick after poor defensive judgement.

Grade: B. Very little to do, as decisions were almost handed to him on a silver plate

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

It’s a stick on penalty and Andre has got it spot on. The player has stuck his arm out, it’s denied a goal and the second penalty was nailed on too.

Andre looked a little sharper this week, when he did Swansea vs Chelsea he looked a bit lethargic, he was giving decisions from distance but he looked a lot better this week.

Costa caught in latest con

Game: Arsenal 3 – 0 Chelsea

Ref: Michael Oliver

When Diego Costa meets Arsenal, it is usually a safe bet to assume that there will be fireworks. Incredibly for Michael Oliver however, this weekend’s clash saw Costa smothered by a strong defensive partnership in the heart of Arsenal’s defence, and the Spaniard wasn’t going to take it lying down.

As Laurent Koscielny essentially kept the Chelsea danger-man in his pocket, Costa took every opportunity to sow seeds of doubt in the referee’s mind. After what was only Koscielny’s second tackle of the match, Costa sat on the floor waving an imaginary card with a forlorn look on his face, urging Oliver to book the Frenchman. Nothing doing however.

Later on, after Koscielny pressed Costa hard and essentially caused him to fall backwards unceremoniously, Costa was incensed to see Oliver had turned away with disinterest. The striker began running after Koscielny, looking a lot like a toddler in the middle of a tantrum. Oliver had had enough and booked him. Suddenly Costa didn’t look so big and scary.

Grade: B+. Impressive decisiveness from a usually quiet and unassuming referee

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

I’ve never seen an Arsenal vs Chelsea game with such few tackles. It wasn’t a difficult game but Michael refereed the game well, he handled the players well and handled Costa well too.

He’s obviously said something and Michael has dealt with it as he saw fit. It wasn’t open dissent so I might have waited until the ball had gone out and had a chat with him but I won’t criticise him for handling it the way he did.

Decision of the Week – West Ham penalty appeal

The player has turned his back away, his arm is tucked in so I can fully support not giving that as a penalty. It’s good to see referees have acquitted themselves well this weekend. It’s easy to referee a match when nothing’s happening but this weekend they’ve all done well and it’s right they get praise.

Read more from Alex here

Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexVryzakis and Mark Halsey at @RefereeHalsey

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