After only three weeks of fixtures maybe they should reconsider changing it to the Prince classic ‘Controversy’ as that is exactly what the new hand-ball ruling and the use of Video Assisted Referee (VAR) is creating.
Following on from last weekend’s drama, another series of games were plagued with controversial decisions that left managers either entirely baffled or incandescent with rage.
In the weekend’s curtain-raiser on Saturday (Sept 26) a hugely contentious penalty was given after the final whistle as Manchester United managed to overcome a resilient Brighton 3-2.
Deep into injury time, Harry Maguire’s goalbound header brushed the arm of Brighton’s Neal Maupay before the final whistle was blown. Referee Chris Kavanagh was urged by the video assistant to check the pitch-side monitor which resulted in the spot kick successfully dispatched by Bruno Fernandes in the 100th minute.
They used to refer to ‘Fergie time’ back in the day but this took things to another level entirely.
The game itself had been thoroughly entertaining, littered with incidents and goal-mouth action which saw the home team strike the woodwork of post or crossbar an astonishing five times, setting a record in doing so. It felt a real shame that the ultimate talking point from such a spectacle had to be the questionable handball ruling and the use of technology to enforce it.
By the letter of the law the decision was admittedly not questionable as the ball did make contact with arm. But in the eyes of common sense it was beyond questionable. For a person to jump they need their arms to assist with elevation. It is very challenging to generate much momentum and thus height from a standing start without the use of one’s arms. Try it.
Had Maupay deliberately positioned his arm to stop or divert the trajectory of the ball then no argument. But he didn’t and it just seemed very harsh and extremely cruel on an excellent Brighton performance.
“We feel so sore,” commented Brighton boss Graham Potter.
Everton also profited from the penalty spot after another disputable decision in their 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace left seasoned Eagles boss Roy Hodgson bemoaning the “nonsense” rule.
Tottenham were punished yesterday when it was adjudged Eric Dier handled in mid-air with his back to the ball. Callum Wilson hammered home the penalty and Newcastle came away with a draw in a game where they failed to register a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.
Spurs manager Jose Mourinho, hot-headed even at the most sanguine of times, decided not to use his post-match interview to lambast anything or anyone for fear of incurring a fine, instead choosing his words carefully.
“If I want to give some money I give to charity,” he commented. “I don’t want to give to the FA so I prefer not to comment.”
Even Magpies boss Steve Bruce expressed his exasperation at the ruling: “If you’re going to tell me that is handball then we all may as well pack it in,” he said in his post-match interview with Sky Sports.
“It’s a nonsense, a nonsense of a rule. It’s gone for us today – however, it’s ludicrous,” he lamented.
The term ‘new normal’ has become common-place in this coronavirus dictated world, a notion that perhaps needs to be extended to football as it appears the hugely contentious combo of the handball ruling and technology is not going to change anytime soon.
It is a great shame as the actual football action on the pitch across the weekend for the large part was, once again, engrossing as several surprise results tried their best to usurp the controversy and claim the headlines.
Leicester City annihilated Manchester City yesterday at the Etihad Stadium as a Jamie Vardy hat-trick and a stunning strike from James Maddison contributed to their 5-2 success. City often looked bereft of creative ideas and toothless in attack despite taking a fourth minute lead courtesy of Riyah Mahrez’s wonderstrike against his old club.
“They didn’t want to play, they defended so deep and just wanted to counter-attack,” a somewhat bitter City manager Pep Guardiola told the BBC. It was, after all, the first time in 638 games that a team managed by Pep had conceded 5 goals.
“It’s a tough result but I am not going to give up. I am going to find solutions for the team to be stable,” he added.
Leeds United won the first Yorkshire derby to be played in the top-flight in 19 years after Patrick Bamford’s late strike saw Marcelo Bielsa’s side emerge 1-0 winners against Sheffield United.
It signals a very encouraging return to the top league for Leeds who now have two wins from three games although the murmurs of ‘second-season-syndrome’ continue to draw momentum for the Blades who are so far winless and sit bottom of the table.
Most commentators viewed Chelsea’s trip to winless West Brom on Saturday akin to lambs to the slaughter with Frank Lampard’s expensively assembled West Londoners expected to trounce their opponents.
However, after only 27 minutes such predictions seemed laughable as the home team had taken a three goal lead courtesy of Callum Robinson and Kyle Bartley.
Chelsea managed to turn things around in the second half but were still thankful to Tammy Abraham’s injury team equaliser to save their blushes and it is clearly evident Lampard has much work to do to mould his troops into anything even closely resembling a top-four side.
The surprises continued last night as West Ham dispatched Wolves 4-0 with ease. The Hammers have endured a turbulent start to the season, on and off the pitch, culminating in manager David Moyes being quarantined last week after testing positive for COVID-19.
Clearly working from home suits Moyes as, via direct ongoing communication with his management team led by assistant Alan Irvine at the ground, the Hammers out-classed Wolves who lost their second game on the bounce.
Arguably the pick of the games comes this evening (2am Tuesday Phuket time) when champions Liverpool host a resurgent Arsenal.
Let’s hope we are discussing the merits of the actual football and play post-match as opposed to analysing any further controversial decisions.
If not, maybe it isn’t such a crazy idea for the licensing department at the Premier League to reach out to Prince’s estate and inquire about the use of his aptly named hit sometime soon.