The Laws of the Game are clear on the Eto'o Marshall Bounceballgate, so why did it take so long for everyone to understand. Because they don't even know the rules, says Rob McNichol...
The news that the Football Association is to take no further action on Fernando Torres' scratch n Jan Vertonghen is not really a surprise. They have vowed that they cannot take retrospective action on Torres as 'one of the match officials saw the coming together of the two players, albeit not in its entirety'.
This raises two very interesting points. One is that if the incident wasn't seen in its entirety by the officials, how did they come to a decision about the scratch at the time? The other point is that retrospective action HAS already been taken on Torres - it was taken by Mike Dean about half an hour later.
To answer the first question, I'd suggest that this indicates that Mr Dean cautioned Torres for the trip on Vertonghen, not the scratch, or anything similar to a scratch which he or a member of his team saw, in its entirety or otherwise. At least, I'd hope so. You can't be guessing about things like this.
I feel fairly certain that Mr Dean knew, or at least suspected, what had gone on with Torres. The innocuousness of the second caution, essentially given for a jumping (badly) for a header, suggest to me that Mr Dean knew deep down that Torres did something earlier that merited dismissal, and was seeking an opportunity to whip out that yellow card again. He found one, and off went the Spaniard.
Two yellows make a red, but do two wrongs make a right? The right decision was come to in the end, but in a fairly bizarre manner. I feel for Mr Dean, but I suspect even he will know that things didn't go exactly as they could have.
By the way, excellent work by Danny Murphy in analysing this on Match of the Day, proving that even the new punditry blood trot out the 'Letter of the Law' poppycock and everyone just nods as if knows what he is talking about.
Just to clarify, Danny and others, putting your hand on someone's face is not, 'by the letter of the law', a sending-off offence. Violent conduct is, though, and I'd suggest that scratching someone falls under that category.
So, in a roundabout way, I agree with Mr Murphy's assessment that Torres should have walked, but I do tire of the lazy platitudes about the Law's specific wording.
I have a certain amount of sympathy for Sam Allardyce in his complaints after his West Ham side lost 1-0 a contentious Hull City penalty, whilst being denied a spot-kick of their own.
I qualify the statement as 'a certain amount' because in the television replays of the award of the penalty it seems to me to be completely impossible to judge the decision. There is not an angle that I have seen which clearly shows the incident, so I am unable to judge fairly whether Robbie Brady was impeded or went to ground a little easily. It wouldn't be fair to judge.
However, I saw the handball by Jake Livermore as clear as day. Steve Bruce and Allardyce are big mates, apparently, but when Big Sam needed a Friend - referee Kevin - to come to his aid, it was lacking. No guarantee The Hammers would have scored, of course. But they deserved the opportunity, from 12 yards, to try.
Daniel Sturridge's goal for Liverpool at Sunderland on Sunday was a classic example of a goal being scored unfairly, but no-one on the pitch being to blame. Except maybe the Black Cats defence, who between them opted not to track the most potent striker in English football right now.
As Sturridge got on the end of a cross, with no-one remotely near him, he misjudged his attempted header and the ball struck his arm before finding the goal. It wasn't an intentional move on his part, but there was sufficient body movement towards the ball that had it been picked up by any of the officials, they would have signalled for a handball. However, they didn't, and the goal stood.
That is not a criticism of the officiating team on the day, though. To most eyes, it looked like Sturridge had simply nodded the ball in. Eyes that include the Sunderland team, apparently, because despite their close proximity (not as close as they should have been, of course) it didn't appear that a single one appealed for an infringement. That's usually pretty telling. On this occasion, what is does is relieve the referee and his assistant of any blame that Sunderland may want to throw his way, because I bet until the replay was screened, few of them realised it was an arm that prodded it goalwards.
And, one has to point out, blame should not be attached to Sturridge either. Yes, he knocked it in with his arm, but it was not a devious attempt at scoring a goal, it was a mistiming of a cross. Had the free-kick been given, I would hope that it wouldn't have been accompanied by a yellow card of unsporting behaviour, because there was none present. Just a set of simple, honest mistakes which conspired to inflict more damage on poor Sunderland. The cosmos has a way of kicking you when you are down...
Speaking of yellow cards for unsporting behaviour, simulation comes under that category, and fair play to Ian Holloway for refusing to defend Marouane Chamakh for his dive on Saturday against Southampton. Chamakh was rounding goalkeeper Artur Boruc and went to ground looking for a spot-kick. He fairly obviously started to fall before Boruc was anywhere near him, and was rightly cautioned. The stupid thing is that Boruc was nowhere near the ball, and had th Moroccan continued on his run he might have been clipped for real. He also might have got clear of the goalie and had a chance to stroke the ball home. He chose the easy way out, and Martin Atkinson saw through it.
Those that know my Plymouth Argyle allegiance might be unsurprised to hear that I have no fond feelings whatsoever towards Holloway, but one must be fair to all situations, and if more managers faced a camera like Holloway and admitted their player was in the wrong, then the world would be a better place. Well, the Premier League would, anyway.
Often, on this page, I have extolled the virtues of referee Andre Marriner. I think he is an excellent referee, one of our best, and I greatly admire the way he calmly goes about officiating games. I'm a fan. I just wanted to make that clear ahead of Andre's big appointment for this weekend - Exeter City v Plymouth Argyle. I have faith in you, Andre. Please don't let me down...
Rob McNichol - follow him on Twitter
No, contact does not have to be made for there to be a foul. It's generally considered to be necessary for a player to clutch where he's been hit though. The difference between this incident and the Luiz one last year was that Luiz was kicked in the ankles and held his ankles (laughing at Nani's idiocy), while Vertonghen brushed arms with Torres and clutched his face. No one is defending Torres and him being out 3 weeks with injury seems fated, but the second yellow was a result of unsporting play from a Spurs player - that and a linesman who seemed to see every offside but absolutely nothing else.- shagwa