It could have been a very costly mistake and Rob McNichol wonders whether one his favourite referees gave Wigan a free-kick partly because of Arsenal fans' jibes...
You may think David Luiz's chuckles were unpleasant, but Rob McNichol wonders what else could be done when the officials took exactly the right action...
Callum McManaman's tackle was undoubtedly the talking point of the weekend, but the bigger controversy has become the decision by our governing body to not punish the Wigan player for his challenge on Massadio Haidara.
Clearly it was a shocking tackle. I don't need to spend a column analysing whether it was serious foul play and deserved a red card. What I will say is that I do not necessarily blame Mark Halsey for not sending the player off at the time. From Mr Halsey's angle it was not clear what had happened, and the fact that he didn't give a free-kick, actually helps his defence in a way. Had he given a free-kick and not punished McManaman, or just cautioned him, then I would be extremely concerned that he had seen it and bottled out of a big decision.
His assistant, though, is the key to all this. He had a decent view of the matter, and the fact that he made no action towards to referee to bring it to his attention has apparently skewed this entire situation. The FA's stance is that as one of the officials saw the incident, they won't review and administer retrospective punishment.
This is allegedly to protect referees, but that's just nonsense, frankly. Their job is to make sure justice is done and McManaman should be banned for three games. If he scores or contributes heavily in those games and Wigan pick up points, that's not 'protecting' other teams in the relegation zone very much, is it?
Also, it isn't protecting the referee in this case, because it is raised the profile of this incident. Halsey had the balls to stand up and admit he didn't see the tackle and the FA has done him a massive disservice by not helping him out and carrying out the appropriate punishment.
I don't understand the reluctance. If Halsey - and his assistant - had sent someone off for something fatuous, and the FA had later decided the decision was unfair, then they can overturn it. That's not protecting a referee, that's coming out publicly, hearing an appeal, and then saying the ref got it wrong. I haven'' got a problem with that at all, by the way, it's just part of a sensible process.
Why then should it be different the other way around? One of the officials saw McManaman's tackle so it can't be reviewed, but in a fictional scenario where two officials conferred and then dismissed someone, this could be reviewed and altered. That simply doesn't tally.
The point should not be systems and dictates and rigid stances, it should be justice being done, and in this instance that has not happened. This is a world where people are banned for showing their pants and cautioned for taking off a shirt, yet our Football Association are hiding behind legislation rather than ensuring that the right thing is done.
Other than the McManaman controversy, the feature of weekend seemed to be handballs, particularly at the Stadium of Light.
I've tried in the past to try and explain what I feel is a major misconception within the football world, partially fuelled by poor wording in the Laws of the Game. It centres largely on the definition of the word 'deliberate' and the use of it within the wording of the Laws.
Here are the first couple of paragraphs and bullet points from the 'Handling the Ball' section of the Laws of the Game:
'Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration:
* The movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
* The distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)'
To add to this, I was taught and have always applied that the word 'deliberate' pertains to a player deliberately making an action, not necessarily deliberate playing the ball. For example, when a ball is crossed and a player, attempting to block the ball's progress, instinctively holds his arms wide and away from his body. He may not have had the thought 'I'm going to try to block this with my hand', but he deliberately placed his body in the position. If the ball then strikes his hand or arm, then certainly this should be considered a handball.
Take Sebastian Bassong, then, defending for Norwich against Sunderland. The ball approached him, and he placed his arms wide to assist himself to balance as he tried to bring the ball down. As he did so, he played the ball with his chest and arm, and for me the assistant referee was right to signal a penalty-kick.
I'm not saying that Bassong sought to use his arm to control the ball, but the fact remains that it did help him, and he had deliberately placed his body in such a position. It's a nuance of the wording, I'll grant you, but that was always my understanding given what I was taught and what I have learned from other referees.
The next question is usually 'well, isn't a deliberate handball a booking?' - well, not always, no. To be cautioned for handball, according to the Laws, you need to have attempted to score a goal by using your hand, or blatantly handled in order to prevent an opponent from getting the ball. For example, on the latter, you are looking at a player flicking or punching the ball from a player in order to gain an advantage cynically, not just instinctively handling.
The Norwich goalkeeper was also in trouble for handball, this time sent off for his handball outside of the area. Again, I heard rumblings about the fact that the sending-off was harsh because the handball was not 'deliberate'. Well, for me it was a handball on the criterion set out above - deliberately placing your hand in a position where the ball can be handled. The red card has nothing to do with the second caveat above which pertains to cautions. Instead, he was sent off for preventing a clear goalscoring opportunity, in the same fashion that his centre-half would have been had he tripped an opponent in that fashion.
Lastly, there was a handball by a Sunderland player which led to a Norwich free-kick. It should, of course, have been a penalty, as Danny Rose played the ball with his outstretched arm a couple of yards inside the penalty area. I don't blame the assistant referee necessarily, as it hard to judge the depth of where a handball took place from his vantage point. However, I do feel that referee Chris Foy - who otherwise had a pretty good game - had a position where he could see that the incident was inside the area and ought to have given a spot-kick for me.
A similar matter occurred at Goodison, where Marouane Fellaini handled deep inside the penalty area, yet Lee Probert gave a free-kick only. Again, I felt Mr Probert was sufficiently positioned to see where the handball took place, and Everton were extremely fortunate on that occasion.
I will note, however, that Everton had a perfectly good goal ruled out when Kevin Mirallas was wrongly called offside, and the Toffees could also have had a penalty when Matija Nastasic deliberately blocked off Fellaini. I did feel, though, that the referee was right to send off Steven Pienaar.
Rob McNichol - follow him on Twitter
When I first saw it in real time, I thought the player who dived in before the ball struck Fellaini hand balled it as he had his hands raised when he dived in. Also the position of the free kick was at or about where he was.- Synergy
Off course the replays an slow motion replays show that his hands didn't make contact with it and it was a clear handball by Fellaini and hence a penalty.
In a way it was the balancing decision for the wrongly disallowed everton goal so in this game it all balanced out in the end.