joeldurston

Posts Tagged ‘Szczesny’

Football needs to scrap the double punishment for last man offences in the box

In Sport on March 12, 2014 at 4:16 PM

As Arsenal lick their wounds after last night’s aggregate 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, many are looking back in regret to Nicola Rizzoli’s decision to send off Wojciech Szczesny in the first leg. Although David Alaba missed the resulting penalty, and Fabianski deputised very well for the Pole in the second leg, there wasn’t much doubt that the decision turned the tie in Bayern Munich’s favour. Defending against Bayern with 11 men is hard enough, as their 49-game unbeaten run and average three goals per game this season testifies. (Ok, maybe I’m clutching at straws a bit, but, as a Gooner, it’s a good coping mechanism).

Even many neutrals said it was the wrong decision and that ‘killed the game” (a slightly spurious phrase personally, as the ref has no obligation to making games entertaining – merely fair) . I don’t quite agree, though – it was the right decision, but under the wrong rule. The rules clearly state that committing a foul which prevents a goalscoring opportunity incurs a red card, so the ref made the correct decision. Szczesny was the last man and did not play the ball. And just to pre-empt any suggestions of sour grapes on my part, I also thought the rule was unfair on Tottenham in their visit to Stamford Bridge this weekend (as with many other occasions). On the hour, with Chelsea 1-0 up, Younes Kaboul made slight contact with Eto’o’s back and the Cameroonian went over. What wouldn’t have even been a yellow outside of the box was deemed a red, Hazard converted the spot kick and what had been an even contest turned into a bit of rout for Chelsea. Although anyone who saw Spurs’ two defensive howlers for Chelsea’s third and fourth goals will testify that the scoreline was not just down to Chelsea’s numerical advantage, it certainly helped.

So my truck is with the rules. Surely, the whole point of the red card is to compensate for the probable goal that would have been scored. So reds for last-man fouls outside the box makes complete sense. But inside the box the penalty usually presents as good a chance to score as the denied opportunity, if not a better one. So in many cases, issuing a red card for a challenge in the box just represents a needless double punishment. Defenders and keepers should have the luxury of being able to go into the dramatic last-gasp challenges the punters want to see without, if they get it wrong, being down both a goal (probably) and a man.

One argument is that changing the rules could open a can of worms for referees, but as the controversy over the current rules show, they are already criticised under the current rules. And giving the refs discretion in this area might be hard to implement, but it could be combined with video technology, successful in other sports, and/or a rugby-esque sin-bin rule so even the team misses the penalty they have still gained some advantage.  It could, I suppose, encourage cynical fouling of players through on goal, but this is not bound to happen if the ref retains the power to send people off for last-man challenges in the box.

Whatever you think, surely there’s a world of difference in principle between a non-dangerous challenge mistimed by mere milliseconds and the type of challenge Lee Cattermole has made his trademark…