Ref Review: Manchester United & Tottenham were fortunate, Arsenal can have no complaints

Ex-Premier League referee Mark Halsey from is back to look over the last pre-Christmas action which saw two dubious goals against Arsenal at the Etihad and Mike Dean take charge of his first ever Merseyside derby.

Fresh from watching his nephew George Miller make his full first team debut for Bury and a man of the match award to go with it, Halsey has more criticism for Lee Mason but goes easier on Craig Pawson.


Craig Pawson (Stoke City vs Leicester City)

Although I believe it’s the wrong decision for Craig to send off Jamie Vardy, I wouldn’t necessarily criticise him for the decision. If you go back to Crystal Palace vs Man United where he received a lot of criticism for how he handled the Rojo challenge, he’s clearly left nothing to chance on this occasion.

If you look at the difference between the two challenges, it was vast. Vardy is going at pace but Glen Johnson nudges him and that puts him off balance and sends him into Diouf. Even though he’s in the air momentarily, that’s not his fault because he’s been pushed. His legs are straight and he goes in with his shins, not with studs up like Rojo on Wednesday night.

That didn’t happen with Vardy, but with what happened on Wednesday Craig wasn’t taking any changes. But by getting the red card out straight away he’s not given himself any thinking time, he’s low on confidence and we all would have been after Wednesday. I wouldn’t criticise him under those circumstances but for me it’s an incorrect sending off. If the Rojo incident doesn’t happen I don’t think he sends Vardy off, that challenge was nowhere near as bad as Rojo’s.

I would completely support the penalty decision though, Simpson has given the referee a decision to make by having his hands up and he’s given the referee an easy decision.

Lee Mason (West Ham United vs Hull City)

Lee has been on the list for a long, long time but he’s making big key match errors week in, week out. Saturday saw him make another, he’s in a fantastic position and he moves away as if he’s not going to give the penalty and then he goes back and gives it!

If you go to move away, you get away and move on, you’d rather be wrong by not giving the penalty so I’d love to know his thought process and how he thought that was a penalty. He’s a very experienced referee but he’s made another key match error.

I think Lee needs taking out for a while, I’ve said before I’d like to see Attwell and Friend and Tierney and a few others see more games. Lee’s having a tough time and maybe he needs a spell in the Championship to get his confidence back up.

Anthony Taylor (West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United)

I think Manchester United’s first goal should have been disallowed, Ibrahimovic has gotten very lucky because as he runs through he’s pulled back the defender to get ahead of him and score the goal.

It’s hard for a referee to spot that but at that level you should be aware of what’s going on, Ibrahimovic isn’t a saint by any means but I think he was right to only caution him for the jump into the West Brom defender.

Rondon was very lucky not to see a red card for violent conduct and it can’t be reviewed as he’s been cautioned. Rojo’s been booked because there’s been a coming together and it’s hard to caution one without the other.

Neil Swarbrick (Middlesbrough vs Swansea City)

No problems here, Neil has got that one spot on and he’s refereeing very well. He’s another who needs more games and he’s getting a bit of a run now. At that level you need to referee week in, week out to improve and Neil’s had some good games.

I thought he got away with one though, I think Swansea should have had a penalty at one point for a bit of grappling in the box but he’s given a free-kick to Middlesbrough. But apart from that he’s refereeing very well at the moment.

Kevin Friend (Tottenham Hotspur vs Burnley)

Even though the Tottenham player has won the ball he has gone through the player too, if that’s anywhere else on the pitch it’s a free-kick so why isn’t it a penalty?

Sean Dyche to be fair hasn’t made much of it, I don’t think there would have been a huge uproar if he’d given it but the Sissoko incident was strange. The ball is up there, it’s a high challenge but it looks odd because he realises and he tries to take his foot away.

Sissoko has gone in recklessly and it wasn’t too dissimilar to the Arnautovic challenge in midweek. There was clear contact in that incident but on this one it looked like he tried to pull out and Kevin was in a fantastic position to spot that. But he still went in recklessly and it’s a difficult one to give either way. Kevin’s right there, he’s had a good look at it and he’s decision it’s only a caution.

Martin Atkinson (Manchester City vs Arsenal)

I thought Martin refereed the game very well, he managed the game and the occasion and it’s pleasing to see a referee smiling on the pitch with the players. It relaxes the players too and he’s contributed to a really good game.

For me, there’s not a problem with the first goal and no blame to Adam Nunn. It was a fraction offside, I’ve seen several replays with a thick white line and a thin white line and it brings out two different verdicts. You have to give benefit of the doubt to the attacker in that instance because it really is just a fraction.

I think he’s got the second goal spot on too, did Silva impact the ability of Cech to save the ball? No. Being in an offside position is not an offence in itself, but if you make a movement towards the ball and impact an opponent’s ability to see the ball then it’s offside. But Cech has come out himself and said he didn’t know which player was in front of him and that it didn’t really impact him, players always know if they’re affected or not.

Mike Dean (Everton vs Liverpool)

You can just tell when there’s been a poor challenge and it’s a red card, then I saw Jurgen Klopp’s reaction on the replay and you know it’s a bad one. You’ve got Lee Mason (Fourth Official) and Simon Long (Assistant Referee) and if Klopp can see it’s a poor challenge, why can’t Lee and Simon? If Mike Dean gets injured and Lee Mason has to come on we’re all in trouble!

People ask me why Mike didn’t get any help and it’s because Mike runs it straight away with his yellow card. That ruled out any outside help because he’s made his mind up straight away and that’s very unusual for Mike. Overall he’s had a very good game but I know Mike and he’ll be disappointed he’s got that decision wrong.

It was obvious Mike didn’t want to send anyone off with it being his first Merseyside game and his first ever Liverpool game but then you’ve got Barkley kicking the ball away. At that point you just think he deserves what he should get and he’s lucky there.

Dejan Lovren was lucky when you take into account what I said about the Rojo/Rondon incident earlier. If you caution Coleman, you’ve got to caution Lovren too. I did think Mike managed the game well though, he let a lot go in the first half and tried to let it flow but if you let too much go you get what happened in the second half. Barkley’s committed one foul right at the end of the first half and that’s when things needed calming down going into half-time.

I wouldn’t criticise Mike too much, he’ll be disappointed but he’ll be physically and mentally shattered after that game.


You can follow Mark @RefereeHalsey


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