Manchester United v Southampton: Match in pictures
Premier League officials come in for their fair share of criticism throughout the season – most would agree that some of it is unfair – but games on Tuesday evening showcased how they don’t exactly help themselves. VAR has had it’s fair share of controversial moments since it’s inception while the handball law has been scrutinised, leaving managers often scratching their heads at some of the decisions.
But the game reared its ugly head once again for Southampton and Arsenal in the most mind-boggling fashion.
The so-called ‘triple punishment’ rule was supposed to have been stamped out of the game back in 2016.
Players who commit a foul to deny a goalscoring opportunity were automatically shown a red card and that would even include some accidental circumstances.
It was made clear that unintentional fouls would now see players only given a caution instead of being shown a straight red card.
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Something has clearly gotten lost in the laws of the game over the past few years though judging by events on Tuesday night.
David Luiz was clumsy at best when his knee made contact with Willian Jose’s boot to give away a penalty at Wolves.
A penalty would have been enough, but referee Craig Pawson showed no hesitation whatsoever to pull out a red card.
VAR checked the incident and saw no ‘clear and obvious error’ so backed the on-pitch official.
Then an almost identical situation happened in the later game between Manchester United and Southampton.
The Saints, already down to 10 men and losing 6-0, were reduced to nine with just a few minutes left in similarly bonkers circumstances.
Anthony Martial was through in on goal and Jan Bednarek, who clearly tried to pull out of the challenge – albeit a second too late – clipped the United forward with the tip of his knee.
A dubious penalty call, but arguably the correct call to point to the spot, however what followed suit was farcical at best.
Mike Dean went over to the rarely-used pitchside monitors to determine whether or not Bednarek’s challenge was worthy of a red card.
Upon reviewing footage which clearly showed Bednarek made little to any contact whatsoever – with no malice or clear intent to bring his opponent down – Dean miraculously pulled out a red card.
Incredibly, although not surprising, BT Sport’s resident referee correspondent Peter Walton backed the decisions for both Luiz and Bednarek to be given a red card.
Speaking on both incidences, Walton suggested if both players had in fact made an attempt to challenge for the ball then both players would have only received a yellow card.
In essence, if Bednarek had stuck his leg out to make it look as though he was going for the ball as opposed to trying to avoid such a scenario then he would have stayed on the pitch – bonkers.
First, defenders are being told they’re going to get punished if the ball hits them on the arm while naturally jumping for the ball.
Now they’re not allowed to not physically make a challenge without being shown a red card?
Both games were otherwise exceptionally entertaining, particularly for United fans, but football purists are left reeling over more controversial incidents where anybody with common knowledge of the game wouldn’t bat an eye at.
Where football goes from here is anyone’s guess but, at risk of sounding like a broken record, this is certainly not the beautiful game.
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