Bad decisions

Newcastle's disallowed goal against Manchester City was just the beginning, writes Nick Miller.

Last Updated: 12/01/14 at 17:15

Ah, a good refereeing controversy. Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, doesn't it? Like sharks, it feels like football fans, journalists and broadcasters might die if we stop moving - and in this instance for 'moving' read 'arguing about a contentious decision in a game of football.'

Of course, in the back and forth about whether Mike Jones was correct in deciding that Yoan Gouffran was interfering with play when Cheick Tiote's shot fizzed past his nose, it's easy to miss the real point, specifically that Alan Pardew's reaction was really funny. He was understandably angry, but nonetheless, it was funny.

You are all cordially invited to peruse the laws of the game yourself and squabble over whether Jones did in fact make the correct decision. It all seems to rest on your interpretation of whether Gouffran was interfering with an opponent, and whether you can shake the image of Gouffran interfering with Joe Hart in a non-football context.

One point though - if you watch Hart's reaction, he paused after the ball hit the net, and only started to appeal as he looked around, possibly for an excuse or an explanation as to why he didn't dive. It was a little like how wicketkeepers appeal for a leg-side catch in cricket to try and put the umpire off giving a wide. Of course, it's possible that Hart didn't dive because he knew Gouffran was there and thought he would block the ball, but that is firstly quite unlikely given the speed of the incident, and secondly not especially good goalkeeping.

The odd thing is that if the Manchester City keeper had positioned himself better, then Gouffran would clearly have been interfering. As it was, Hart was standing so close to his near post and, of course, didn't move - had Hart dived from a more central position and been impeded by Gouffran, the decision would have been clear.

One of the problems is not quite so much the decision itself, but how Jones arrived at it. The referee was, unusually, directly in line with the Manchester City defence, so therefore should have immediately seen that Gouffran was in an offside position. And thus, if he was offside, whether he was interfering with play. There is nothing wrong with consulting with an assistant in the interests of accuracy over speed, but if Jones was absolutely sure that the latter was true, then it was curious that he felt the need to ask his assistant. Particularly as that simply gave the impression that the final decision was reached only after some rather hearty complaints from the City players.

Still, this was the type of decision that will always provoke debate because it relies on such subjectivity. It will always be contentious because the laws are written in such a way as to rely on the referee's interpretation of what is and is not interfering with an opponent. And it's tough to see how that could change unless it is changed to Brian Clough's old maxim of 'if you're not interfering with play, what are you doing on the pitch?' It will again presumably inspire plenty of 'all we want is consistency' comments, which of course is impossible when such subjectivity is in play.

Arguably a worse decision was Jones' failure to send Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa off for a horrendous chop on Samir Nasri, a chop that forced his international colleague off with what Manuel Pellegrini described after the game as a 'very serious' injury. Of course the referee should not make such a decision on the basis of the injury, but it deserved a red card even if Nasri had gaily hopped up and carried on with the game.

Yanga-Mbiwa pulled Nasri back by his shoulder, missed with a right-footed swing, missed with a left-footed swing then finally made thumping contact with another knee-high hack. In one incident, at least two bookings and a straight red card for violent conduct. Quite why Jones only issued a yellow card is a far more baffling decision than disallowing Tiote's goal, but not the one that will get the headlines.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

Pardew's view

"For me, this is an entertainment business. The guy's hit a goal that Joe Hart is just not going to save. It goes through a number of bodies but his vision is not impaired. I don't think he was clear in his answers about Joe Hart being impaired - I couldn't work that out. I don't understand it. Even if Man City's back four is on the edge of the box and we've got four offside, it's such a clean hit, it's going in the top corner. He's got that wrong and unfortunately that was a massive call. In these type of games that have got to go your way. It was probably easier for him to give the goal and I can't understand why he hasn't."

Pellegrini's view

"Of course it was offside. He didn't give a goal because it was absolutely offside. And I think it was a red card for the Newcastle player for the kick of Nasri. It was a red card, direct. It is a serious injury to his knee, we think medial ligament. I repeat it was a direct red card. We didn't have any help off the referee today. He (Pardew) was complaining about all the decisions of the referee. If you complain and whistle every time, I don't think that's the way to do it."

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