Thursday 22 December 2011

Five Fouls: Same Same But Different

The following incidents occurred during the EPL match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City on Saturday 17 December 2011. The match finished 1—2.

It was a pity that media reports and commentators focused on the biased opinions that the referee had a poor game. In fact, Referee Anthony Taylor had a great game and probably missed one caution for unsporting behaviour.

Incident One of Three Foul, DFK — Correct

In the 3', a foul due to a careless challenge is committed by Stoke (red/white) against Wolves (orange) on the left. Referee Anthony Taylor correctly awards a DFK. There is no need to caution.

Incident Two of Three Foul, DFK, Caution — Correct

In the 10', a foul is committed against Wolves (orange) on the left wing. The Referee correctly awards a DFK and also cautions the Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate (red/white 39). It would be interesting to know the reason why Referee Taylor cautioned Woodgate. Some Referees would consider factors such as speed and intent of the challenge and therefore caution Woodgate for being reckless. Other Referees may consider Woodgate had denied the Wolves player a promising attack and therefore award a caution.

Incident Three of Three Foul, Penalty — Correct

In the 16', a foul is committed against Wolves (orange) in the penalty area. The Referee correctly awards a penalty and points to the spot. There is no need to caution.

There is no need to caution because of three considerations. First, it was a careless challenge. Second, it is debatable whether the Wolves attacker would have had the ball under his control to cross it, since his touch to push the ball pass the defender's challenge was a bit on the heavy side. Third, if the ball was under the attacker's control, would he have been able to cross the ball since there is a covering defender nearby? These considerations point more towards just giving a foul and awarding a penalty kick.

Unsporting Behaviour

A Wolves player (orange) demands a yellow card, which the player knows would have meant a second caution for Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate.
It is unsporting behaviour if players wave imaginary cards at referees in an attempt to get their opponents sent off. Players who do this should be cautioned (and perhaps clubs or competition organisers should fine them too). This was perhaps the one caution that Referee Taylor missed.

Penalty Kick and Encroachment

This is what happened as the penalty kick was taken.
Both sets of players encroach and a goal is scored. What should the referee have done?

Foul Tactical Reason

In the 57', a Wolves defender challenges for the ball and gets a touch but in the process also goes through a Stoke player. The contact brings down the Stoke player, which is a foul. In this context, it does not matter that the Wolves defender got the ball because he still fouled his opponent. Referee Taylor correctly awarded a foul. From that DFK, Stoke scored the equalizer.

NOTE: There was a similar incident in another EPL match during the same weekend that provides an excellent contrast and possible explanation as to why these kind of challenges occur (I shall reference this in a future post). In the meantime, if anyone knows why these foul challenges occur, please leave comments below.

Simple Foul Nothing more, nothing less

In the 69', Wolves Stephen Hunt (orange) challenges for a header but doesn't play it. Instead, he carelessly charges into his opponent (red/white) and the Referee correctly awards a DFK to Stoke. Wolves Coach Mick McCarthy is furious and vents his frustration at the 4th Official Peter Walton. Coaches often see things in a biased light (sometimes called "rose-tinted glasses or rose-coloured spectacles") and therefore do not see the bad and unattractive points in their own players. But if that foul incident were reversed, with the Stoke player fouling a Wolves player, you can bet your bottom dollar that McCarthy would be screaming for at least a foul.

Incidentally, nothing came of the DFK.

A couple of minutes later though, Stoke striker Peter Crouch scored the winning goal from an attacking move.


The media and commentators focused on comments from the losing team's manager Mick McCarthy. Most likely because his team lost, McCarthy clearly felt that the Referee had a poor game and in particular did not think much of the two fouls in the 57' and 69' that warranted free kicks to Stoke. Isn't it interesting that McCarthy did not complain about the three fouls in the 3', 10' and 16' that gave two free kicks and a penalty to Wolves!? If it is possible for players, coaches and fans to take away their bias, then it is obvious that the Referee's foul identification during the match was good and consistent. For instance, all the important fouls mentioned here were correctly identified and awarded.

TV commentators also believed that Stoke's Jonathan Woodgate should have received a second caution and therefore sent off when he gave away the penalty. This just goes to show that what they believe and what Referees are trained to know are like chalk and cheese, respectively. The 'Big Cheese' on the pitch being correct, naturally!

EPL Referee Anthony Taylor performed well.

However, ex-EPL referee Graham Poll thinks otherwise about Taylor. I will comment on Poll's 'opinions' in a future post.

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