Ref Review: Chelsea get lucky against Manchester United, Tottenham got off lightly

Alex Vryzakis looks at the weekend’s refereeing decisions including Moussa Sissoko’s elbow to Harry Arter, penalty decisions at West Ham and Michael Oliver’s nous as Leicester City took on Crystal Palace. Mark Halsey from once again runs the rule over the weekend’s key decisions…


Sissoko’s luck out after elbow

Game: Bournemouth 0 – 0 Tottenham

Ref: Craig Pawson

It goes without saying that referees would gladly grow an extra pair of eyes in the back of their heads in order to see those sneaky last-ditch tackles better. A referee has it tough enough without having to watch over players while the ball is out of play, and yet that is exactly what was asked of Craig Pawson at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

But rather than feeling sorry for Pawson, it should be with a shake of the head that we review his two mystifying decisions as Boro and Spurs cancelled each other out. The first came as Erik Lamela, who had already been booked, lunged into Dan Gosling, tackling him clumsily. Pawson was right on the spot, and yet instead of showing him the expected second yellow, simply admonished him and then waved play on. The tackle was reckless and silly, and deserved to be punished.

The second incident was even more jaw-droppingly unbelievable. Despite the ball rolling out of play, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Arter continued to scrap. As Arter made a motion to pick the ball up, Sissoko appeared to throw an elbow out and smack the Boro player full in the face. Replays not only confirmed the vicious nature of the whack, but also clearly showed Pawson to have been in line with the incident and looking straight at the players in question. The fact that nothing was given is astonishing, and Arter was rightly incensed.

After accepting a violent conduct charge from the FA, Sissoko will receive retrospective punishment of a three-match ban – which Spurs will not be appealing. But, Pawson not dismissing the Frenchman the first time of asking beggars belief.

Grade: D. Both Lamela and Sissoko deserved to be sent off. Two big misses for Pawson.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

I thought Harry Arter was fantastic in what he said after the game but Craig has to toughen up, I’m all for managing a game but Lamela has to get a second caution for a reckless challenge.

It’s a totally different game if that happens, there’s no doubt about it. Craig’s recognition of careless and reckless wasn’t what it should be and then Craig and his assistant Scott Ledger are looking straight at the Moussa Sissoko incident. All I can think is Scott has taken his eye off what’s going on and you should never do that.

It’s all about awareness of what’s going on, Craig’s missed a challenge by Arter on Victor Wanyama earlier in the game where he’s followed through late so Sissoko’s gone to get him back. That was worse than Aguero’s so The FA have to charge him or else they’re not being consistent. [The FA have since charged Moussa Sissoko]

They’ve let their guard drop and both officials have switched off – you cannot switch off at any moment during a Premier League game as an official.


Manquillo missed by Madley

Game: West Ham 1 – 0 Sunderland

Ref: Robert Madley

Football matches can be a temperamental affair. After seemingly endless minutes of boredom and inertness, a single shot can bring the afternoon to life. Or in this case, a well-struck corner.

As Dimitri Payet delivered one of his trademark corners into Sunderland’s box, Robert Madley was suddenly called upon. In the space of a few frantic minutes West Ham had appealed for no less than three separate penalties, bleating their innocence and pointing wildly at Sunderland’s defence.

When reviewed, two incidents may well have been worthy Madley’s point to the spot. First off we see John O’Shea with his hands all over Angelo Ogbonna, impeding him for running or jumping for the loose ball. Though referees had been stricter about such fouls early in the season, the interest on that particular misdemeanour has diminished a great amount. It was therefore Javier Manquillo who could have conceded the penalty. As Winston Reid attempted to turn inside and pass the defender, Manquillo body-checked the West Ham player, obviously impeding him.

Though Madley didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, both he and his linesman should have caught the foul and given West Ham their deserved penalty.

Grade: B-. Though the incidents were not that clear-cut, West Ham may well have deserved a penalty.

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

The offside isn’t Bobby’s shout; I think the assistant has made an excellent decision. He’s just in the line with the last Swansea defender so personally I think it’s a good goal. It’s tight but in that situation you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player.

I thought they got the penalty shout right too, it wasn’t a penalty. You’ve got to allow a bit of contact and not too many people were talking about it. Match of the Day didn’t say much about it either so I think Bobby’s got that one right.


Oliver impresses once again

Game: Leicester 3 – 1 Crystal Palace

Ref: Michael Oliver

Though he began the calendar year by being accused of ‘bottling’ the big incidents in last season’s Manchester derby, Michael Oliver has been on a fine run of late. Leicester’s clash with fellow mid-table Crystal Palace provided the perfect opportunity to continue the run.

It’s his intelligence and reading of the game that has set Oliver apart in recent times, and Leicester’s second goal was in some part owed to the referee. After Ahmed Musa was taken out on the wing, which most referee’s would immediately flag as a clear free-kick, Oliver spotted Danny Drinkwater’s advantage and let play go on. The midfielder’s whipped cross fell into Shinji Okazaki, who scored with aplomb.

Leicester have Oliver’s nous to thank for the opportunity, proving once again that Oliver has matured over the course of his six years in the Select Group of Referees.

Grade: B+. 

Mark Halsey’s Verdict

I’m impressed with Michael lately, I’ve said things in the past about Michael being a great young talent and he’s got the talent to be one of the best referees around.

He had to eradicate his big match errors because his recognition of those offences weren’t what it should be. Now he seems to be doing that and he’s making more and more big decisions and he’s getting them correct too.

The way he manages the game now is good, I like his demeanour and his body language, a smile goes a long way to defusing a situation and his reading of the game is fantastic now. He’s playing some wonderful advantages and we saw that on Saturday after a foul on Musa.

Long may it continue, there’s going to be a space open on the Elite Group of referees when Martin Atkinson retires and I think Michael has edged himself ahead of Anthony Taylor for that spot too.

Neil Swarbrick also did a good job this weekend, he managed the Liverpool vs West Brom game really well as he did with Middlesbrough vs West Ham a few weeks back.

I’d like to see the PGMOL show a bit more trust in Neil and give him some tougher games, I did a piece in The Sun on Sunday and 88% of the big games go to Clattenburg, Taylor, Atkinson, Dean, Marriner and Oliver.

It’s about the PGMOL trusting their referees and now the time has come for someone like Neil to show he’s capable of taking on a big game. They’ve got to give him one to show that he can be capable of it. Martin Atkinson had a bad game last weekend yet he’s given the big game of the weekend, how can that be right?


Decision of the Week (Martin Atkinson) – David Luiz on Marouane Fellaini

Martin made a couple of errors last weekend and was rewarded with the big game between Chelsea and Manchester United. He’s been out pretty much every weekend, he’s been out in Europe and sometimes you become mentally fatigued.

As a human being you can’t do these big games week in, week out and you can’t always put your best performances in all the time if your body can’t take it. Martin’s a good referee, but look at Pedro’s goal celebration.

The law states ‘players can celebrate when a goal is scored but the celebration must not be excessive and choreographed celebrations are not encouraged and must not cause excessive time wasting. Leaving the field is not a cautionable offence but the player must return to the pitch as soon as possible.’

Pedro hasn’t broken any law so why is he cautioned? He’s celebrating with his own fans; we’re in the entertainment business so let’s have a little bit of common sense. Why has Martin gone and cautioned him in the first minute? It’s there in law; it’s not a cautionable offence.

When I saw the David Luiz challenge I thought it was a red card and Martin is in a great position to see it. His recognition isn’t what it should be at that level, if he’s not sure just use his experience and look at Fellaini’s knee – it’s bleeding. That shows you straight away how high the challenge was, just pull out your red card and nobody would have complaining. Luiz should have been sent off for serious foul play and endangering a player’s safety with excessive force and brutality, it was more than a reckless challenge.

So you have to ask was Martin mentally fatigued? He’s had a tough game last week, he’s done Chelsea vs Liverpool a few weeks before and he was out in Ukraine as an additional referee on Thursday night. When I refereed I used to be very tired from all the travelling so there’s every chance he was fatigued going into the Chelsea game.

Martin won’t get back until late Friday [Mark Clattenburg who refereed Manchester City also refereed in Russia on Thursday night] and then he’s travelling down to the game on Saturday, you’re going to be tired after that, does he have enough recovery time?


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

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