Ref Review: Mark Halsey surprised by “tame” Liverpool vs Manchester United encounter, says Arsenal man was unlucky

Alex Vryzakis looks at Granit Xhaka’s questionable red card against Swansea, handball decisions at Chelsea, and two penalties given at the Etihad as she casts her eye over this weekend’s refereeing performances in the Premier League. Former professional referee Mark Halsey is also back after an international break from

Game: Arsenal 3 – 2 Swansea

Ref: Jon Moss

A lot occurred at the Emirates this weekend as Arsenal welcomed Swansea to London. In recent seasons the Gunners have fairly badly against the Welsh side, and this Saturday looked to be no different. But it was the referee who walked away as the major talking point. Jon Moss, with a swift brandishing of a card, left the crowd dumbfounded and once again bemoaning the consistency of refereeing in the Premier League.

The talking point came as Swansea’s Modou Barrow turned and skinned Granit Xhaka near the halfway line, just as he’d been doing to Nacho Monreal throughout the match. The Swiss international, in a moment of cynicism that all teams are wont to succumb to, swiped at Barrow’s retreating form, causing him to hit the deck with all the requisite rolling. Xhaka had assumed, as had everyone else in the stadium, that he would get a yellow card and a talking to. And yet Jon Moss pulled out a red and sent him marching off the field.

It hard to pinpoint quite how ridiculous the sending off was. No one is excusing the tackle for its cynical nature and its obvious intent to stop Swansea’s play, but not only was the tackle not violent or dangerous in nature, it wasn’t in any way hindering a Swansea goal from being scored. That Jon Moss, who was nowhere near the incident, felt that a red card was appropriate is laughable.

Cynical tackles are part and parcel of the game, and it is hard to remember a comparable incident where a referee has sent off a player for a so-called professional foul. The problem of consistency rears its ugly head, as the very next day a perfect example of inconsistency occurred. In Middlesborough’s loss to Watford, Antonio Barragan – who was already on a yellow card – commits a cynical foul near his own penalty area. Referee Roger East waved the incident away, clearly to avoid red carding the player for a second bookable offence.

That the Xhaka and Barragan incidents were less than 24 hours apart show the inconsistencies that are rife within today’s game, and it makes the Xhaka red card appear even more laughable by comparison.

Grade: D. An inconsistent performance from an experienced referee.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

I think the red card was a reckless challenge but just a caution. People say it was cynical but cynical isn’t in the laws of the game. It’s about if the challenge endangers the player’s safety and I thought a yellow card would have been fair.

You look at the challenge Dean Marney made at Southampton and the way he came in from behind, I’m surprised Arsenal didn’t appeal the decision. Jon Moss obviously thought it was a red card but for me a caution for a reckless challenge would have sufficed. It wasn’t with excessive force and brutality and it didn’t endanger the player.


Marriner unmoved at the Bridge

Game: Chelsea 3 – 0 Leicester

Ref: Andre Marriner

Following his tumultuous performance during Tottenham’s clash with Man City a few weeks back, it is hardly surprising that Andre Marriner is somewhat cautious in his approach. This approach however backfired slightly, missing two fairly clear penalty incidents at Stamford Bridge.

The first came as Chelsea were two nil to the good. Pedro was attacking with verve, and decided to have a punt at goal. Christian Fuchs happened to be the defender in his way and unfortunately for the Austrian he had raised his arms. The ball clearly hit his arm and there is no way that his hand wasn’t in an unnatural position. While some might argue that it is a natural reaction to trying to protect oneself, on the football field it is illegally infringing Pedro’s shot at goal. Marriner insisted that the handball wasn’t deliberate but it seems a bizarre decision.

Less than a minute later an incident occurs in the opposing penalty area. As Danny Drinkwater runs down the left and slips in Jeff Schlupp, Victor Moses crosses his path and clearly impedes the player. Replays show that Moses is barely looking at the ball, in the hopes of blocking Schlupp. Again Marriner remained unmoved, which angered and bemused Leicester fans in equal measure.

That Marriner is a good referee is not up for debate, but whether he was shaken by the criticism he has received is an interesting question.

Grade: B-. Marriner is lucky neither of the penalties would have had much effect on the scoreline.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

I didn’t think it was a penalty for Leicester and Andre’s had a terrific game. The last few weeks he’s really come good and refereeing with confidence.

Up until the Spurs vs Man City game I thought he looked a bit one-paced but he’s changed that and he’s reaping the rewards. He’s getting in better positions to make decisions and I think he got the calls spot on.


Luckless Jagielka makes it easy for Oliver

Game: Manchester City 1 – 1 Everton

Ref: Michael Oliver

While it is usually the referees that end up having a torrid time during cagey games with a lot at stake, Phil Jagielka kindly removed the onus from Michael Oliver on Saturday afternoon.

That two completely separate incidents involving the defender could end up as penalties seems absurd, and yet Oliver was right on the money as he pointed to the spot each time. The first came as Jagielka left a trailing leg in David Silva was never going to ignore. It wasn’t a dive, but it was the softest of penalties, and that Kevin De Bruyne went on to miss the spotkick seemed almost like divine justice.

The second was far less objectionable. As Sergio Aguero ran on goal, Jagielka again popped up to do some damage. This time he clearly kicked the striker full on the knee, and there was nowhere to hide. Oliver was again quick off the mark to point for the penalty, though it is hard to think of an easier decision for a referee to make.

Grade: B+. Oliver will be grateful for the easy decision-making afforded to him by the hapless Everton defender.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

It’s unbelievable seeing the same player make the same mistake twice. I criticised Michael last season, he’s a referee with huge potential but he’s been lacking in his big key match decision making this season.

I’ve always maintained once he eradicates that he’ll become a top referee and this season he’s doing that. A few weeks ago I criticised him after the Swansea vs Liverpool match for cautioning Daniel Sturridge after he went down under contact. Michael went looking for trouble by booking him, I said to him just to play on and get on with the game because you’re raising your profile when you go looking for trouble.

Ok, there was contact but it wasn’t penalty. On Saturday, Leroy Sane’s done the same thing and Michael just played on which was pleasing to see so hopefully he’s taken that on board. His game has come on immensely now he’s starting to eradicate the big errors from his game.


Decisions of the Week – Tale of the red card and no red card at Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough

Without a shadow of a doubt Antonio Barragan should have been sent off. Roger East didn’t have a very good game last time and maybe he’s lacking in confidence but he really didn’t have a good game at Palace.

His recognition of offences was poor and players start to take things into their own hands, it becomes a free-for-all and unfortunately I think Roger lost control of that game. Barragan should have gone, absolutely no doubt about that.

The FA have to look at incidents like Aaron Cresswell, watching the game live I thought it was a penalty and I was pleased to see it looked like Martin Atkinson had given it. Then I thought ‘oh no’, because he booked Cresswell and it’s the same as Michael Oliver. Don’t go looking for trouble, just play on because then within a minute Cresswell’s been given another caution and he’s sent off.

The crowd played a big part in that too and I think Martin has succumbed to that a bit, Martin’s in charge but for some reason he goes to speak to his assistant, he doesn’t need to do that. It’s shoulder to shoulder, just give the free-kick but he’s compounded it by sending the player off. Martin’s an excellent referee but he’s got to be stronger than that.

To be honest up to then he’d had a terrific game but then it all went down the drain. Now everyone’s talking about that error instead of the good work he’d done in the first hour. Cresswell misses this weekend’s game now so there has to be a way for players to appeal cautions because the referee has got that absolutely wrong and now he misses a game for his club.


All eyes on Anthony Taylor

It’s one of the tamest Liverpool v Manchester United games I’ve seen in a long time. The personnel are different now, a lot of foreign players in either side but as a referee that’s how you want it. To have a game like that and ensure nobody is talking about the referee being from Greater Manchester is good.

Once you cross that line you’re refereeing a football match and as a referee you tend not to read the newspaper stories. That’s why these guys are at the top, it’s about being mentally strong and it gees you up too to go out and show you’re a good referee.

What was good about his performance was his recognition of careless and reckless was excellent. He picked the wrong incident with Bailly to book him because Milner does the same minutes later and gets away with it. Ashley Young then comes charging over and gets booked for doing so, but he managed the game very well and that would be my only small criticism but it’s not a detriment to his performance.


Read more from Alex here

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


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