There were three incidents in the Premier League this weekend in which the reaction of three individuals led to three contrasting refereeing decisions.
The first incident involved Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini and Wayne Rooney. Coloccini went to ground during one particular tackle and a scrap for the ball ensued; Rooney took two swipes at the ball, the first one debatable but the second one much more malicious, taking a huge swing and hitting Coloccini square in the legs. Coloccini then nobly gets up shakes Rooney’s hand and is given a free-kick by the referee.
Seconds later Hatem Ben Arfa comes running over to Rooney and berates him for the challenge, and although he is rightly given a booking by the ref because it was none of his business, he can obviously see the intent from Rooney who is well known for his flashes of anger, as recently as Montenegro in September.
There was uproar among fans on twitter and phone-ins who wondered how such a reckless act could go unpunished. My point in question is the reaction of Coloccini; if the Newcastle skipper had rolled around on the floor clutching his leg and protesting then surely the referee at least gives Rooney a card? And very likely a red one at that. The MOTD pundits would have undoubtedly changed their opinion of the challenge from accident to cynical. Put bluntly, the integrity and sportsmanship of Coloccini probably saved Rooney more unwanted back-page headlines.
In the interest of objectivity I will also point out that the reaction of Ben Arfa for the penalty, a needles dive and roll was paramount in the decision for the linesman to award Newcastle the penalty.
It’s a real mystery how the game of football can sort out such decisions without the help of video replays. In essence it’s a form of cheating to deceive the referee but likewise if a player stays on his feet after receiving a legitimate foul to the head it is unlikely to aid their cause, but if they go to ground (despite a blow to the head not affecting the ability to stay standing) they are more likely to gain a free-kick.
The third incident involved Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan somehow avoided the book despite a countless incidents of diving and play-acting throughout the Liverpool v Man City game.
The particular incident happened at around 65 minutes where in a 50/50 challenge Suarez studs end up firmly planted in Vincent Kompany’s shin, but the Liverpool striker then proceeded to go to ground with a loud exclaim of pain and inevitably win a free-kick. It’s surprising that referees still fall for this type of cheating and it again raise the question whether the referee would have changed his decision if Kompany had also made a meal of the challenge.
The way in which players reactions can manipulate a referee’s mind is an issue which is rarely covered, but such instances can change games and as with many controversies in football the only solution is video replays.