Friday’s referees reviewed
Opening days are usually sedate affairs but not today. Two spectacular matches and one contest indelibly shaped by the referee. But how many of the big calls did he get right?
Yellow cards: Papastathopoulos, Holebas, Karagounis (Greece)
Red cards: Szczesny (Poland) Papastathopoulos (Greece)
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain)
This was official Carballo’s first ever major international tournament game and he ensured it would like long in the memory. Two red cards, a penalty and a disallowed goal put in him the firing line from both sets of supporters but were these decisions justified?
The game began at a fast tempo with Poland quickly taking the lead through Lewandowski. I did predict in my preview that Greek defenders could expect to see the yellow cards and just after the half hour mark, Sokratis Papastathopoulos was cautioned when challenging for the ball with the Polish striker
This was an incorrect call from Carballo on two counts. Firstly Papastathopoulos does win the ball with little impeding of Lewandowski and the laws of the game state that this situations of jumping for the ball with an opponent are only penalised with a freekick if the jump is “careless, reckless or using excessive force” which do not apply here.
Secondly, even if Carballo was being an extreme arbiter of the rules, this challenge does not deserve a yellow which means – in all likelihood – that Carballo focuses more on the Dortmund forward’s reaction rather than the challenge itself. This is a shame as Carballo is usually unmoved by simulation when overseeing games in La Liga but was tricked by it on this occasion.
Nine minutes later however, things got worse. Papastathopoulos – who had seen Greece’s only red card of their qualifying campaign against Israel – was booked again and sent off.
Now this was an obstruction and foul on Rafal Murawski (although the Pole did appear to be losing his balance before the foul itself) but I think Carballo has to use his common sense here. He should recognise that while a foul like that may result in a yellow perhaps around 40-50% of the time, this should be an opportunity to give a player a final warning and remind them they already have a caution to their name rather than book them.
We see this often from referees who themselves do not want to influence the game significantly and will give players the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately Carballo did not heed this and left the game adversely affected as a result.
A minute later and another Greek player’s name was taken, Jose Holebas, who was booked for dissent following an appeal for handball in the area by Damien Perquis. Replays showed that the handball was not deliberate as Perquis was slipping onto a ball he could not see and thus is not an offence.
Anyone expecting a dull second half as Poland closed out the game were proved wrong as a goalkeeping mistake from Wojciech Szczesny let in Dimitris Salpingidis to score.
The Greeks continued to be offensive and were awarded a penalty after 68 minutes for a foul by Szczesny on Salpingidis brought out another red card for the Polish goalkeeper.
While replays demonstrate that the Greek forward is somewhat “looking” for the penalty as he trips over Szczesny’s feet, the goalkeeper makes a decision to rush out to the player and extend himself to impede him. The ball – while drifting away from the goal – is doing so at a slow rate and still allows for a goalscoring opportunity, the deciding factor in determining whether it should be a red card.
Plenty of officials circumvent this rule by showing a yellow card and giving the penalty so as to treat the awarding of the kick as the major punishment but this is not support by the laws of the game and technically is incorrect.
Szczesny himself does not argue with the decision and subsitute goalie Przemyslaw Tyton subsequently saves the kick to deny the Greeks a lead.
The Hellenic nation thought they had scored the winner on 73 minutes through that man again Salpingidis but winger Kostas Fortounis is offside as the picture illustrates.
The assistant flags before Salpingidis is even given the ball so it is not in response to the ball hitting the net, that just happens to be when Carballo spots the flag and whistles for it.
As the game drew to a close so did the chances and as Carballo blew the final whistle, he could’ve been sure he was in for a long evening writing his report for this particular game. His poor decision to send off Papastathopoulos had significantly impacted on the game and time will tell if this draw is a help or hindrance to both sides as they go into their second games on Tuesday.
Ref rating: 4/10
Yellow cards: 0
Red cards: 0
Referee: Howard Webb (England)
In comparison to the first game which had more cards than goals, this was the opposite and thankfully the action was of creative attacking football rather than foul play. Webb, who oversaw the World Cup final two years ago now took charge of a match that may help to determine who losing finalists Netherlands will play in the next round.
The small talking points came with Russia 2-0 through goals from Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov when forward Andrey Arshavin was brought down in the area by Jaroslav Plasil. It did appear that Arshavin was barged in the back but even replays are not 100% clear about contact.
Had Russia been pegged back to 2-2 in the second-half when the Czech’s fought back, perhaps that decision could have been seen as pivotal but in the end the better side won convincingly.
The busiest Webb became in the first half was probably when a fan threw a flare onto the pitch and the game had to be stopped for one or two minutes while it was removed.
The absent card-count was perhaps a little too lenient as there were fouls here and there that deserved a booking. But Webb should be praised for his advantage play which allowed an open, stretched game to flow to the benefit of the spectators.
His assistant correctly ruled out a Czech goal for offside in stoppage time from Milan Petrzela but it would have been a consolation at best.
Webb was helped by two well behaved teams who both seemed to be going for victory and it will be interesting to see his approach with a more physical game later on in the tournament as his job was relatively easy for this match.
However this was a breath of fresh air compared with Carballo and it will be intriguing to see which refereeing performance is the more common for the rest of the tournament.
Ref rating: 7/10
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