Saturday, September 08, 2007


Too Hot to Handle

Robbie Slater was quite unequivocally in favour of the penalty decision which allowed Adelaide United to equalize in last night's needly match with Melbourne. Certainly most referees would have ruled as Peter Green did, and the decision was arguably - yes, arguably - the correct one.

Yet it's strange that such decisions pass without much comment or debate these days, when they do not, in fact, really fit the description of handling under our old friend Law 12.

Just to remind readers of the circumstances: Diego, having one of his best games for Adelaide, cut inside from the left and sent a powerful shot towards goal (which looked to be on target). The ball cannoned into Roddy Vargas's outstreched arm in mid-flight.

And it was just that: the ball making contact with a more or less stationary arm. "Ball to hand", in the common parlance. And the rule states that a penalty kick is to be the sanction if, inside his own 18-yard area, a player:

...handles the ball deliberately...

That last word is there for the best of reasons, but often it seems to be forgotten.

One problem with judging such incidents on the basis of a TV replay, incidentally, is that one is always given the impression that the offending player had more time to get his hand/arm out of the way than he actually did. In the current case, I very much doubt that Vargas would have had sufficient time to react (Diego's shot had plenty of pace on it), so how could the handling be considered "deliberate"?

Yet logic would suggest that some punishment should be meted out if the handball actually prevented a shot from entering the goal, as it may have done in this case. And there is quite a valid argument that, by extending his arms in the penalty area so as to narrow an attacker's shooting options, a defender is committing a sort of deliberate handball before the fact.

One instance of this which I remember quite vividly was a cunning flick by Roberto Baggio into a defender's outstretched arm in the Italy v. Chile game from the 1998 World Cup. Baggio thus won (and later converted) the penalty which saved Italy from an embarrassing first-up loss.

The referee's decision was bitterly criticized in some quarters, given that it was an obvious attempt to milk a penalty, that the defender patently had no time to react, and that Baggio's "shot" was in no sense an attempt on goal (though the incident occurred within the 18-yard area).

Plenty of grey area, in other words. An obvious suggestion would be to only punish such "pre-deliberate" handballs if they end up impeding a genuine shot on goal...but even the statisticians often seem to disagree on what constitutes such a shot. And what about crosses that would almost certainly have led to a goal? It gets very messy.

I tend to think that this is the kind of decision that needs to be left to a referee's discretion. There are too many factors at play to make a cut-and-dried judgement possible in some cases.

And the best advice for defenders is simply this: hands by your sides!

Sorry know this is kinda unrelated, but my thoughts on the reffing..

i thought this game was reffed very poorly. There was so much off the ball crap and over-physical challenges just being let go... once again i see Peter Green was the man in the middle, it was the same with the Sydney match.. he wasnt the calling the fouls

The worst part of this was how Simon and Robbie were constantly praising him.. i couldn't believe it.. in any European league even the most physical of them those fouls wouldve been called....

Poor game really aside from the last 15 mins
Yeah, tend to agree on the reffing. He let a bit too much go.
I wonder why commentators have agendas. Muscat slams Cassio with a knee to his left side which Robbie slater dismisses as 'momentum'. We are talking about Muscat here Robbie but anyway, a few minutes later Cassio goes down holding his side and eventually comes off the ground but either commentator fails to make a connection between his injury and the Muscat tackle. They deliberately keep quiet on that.

And in Simon's mind, Grant Brebner is a saint because he's a Brit and played for Man Utd or something.

This kind of commentating really gets to me and we have plenty of it in Australian football.

Back to the handball issue, I think it was a correct decision. "deliberate" handball seem's to be a thing of the past. Outstretched arms block spaces where passes and shots travel and in the end break up a play so should be punishable as deliberate handball.
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