Friday’s referees reviewed
Things got electric on day 8 of the tournament with strikes on and off the pitch. The officials had to be on their game as both the weather and the scorelines swung back and forth on a hectic evening.
Yellow cards: Menez, Debuchy, Mexes (France) Selin, Tymoshchuk (Ukraine)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)
It began with a loud bang and temporarily interruption on the TV feed. Had a cheeky Ukranian fan let off a smoke bomb during the French national anthem? No, it was an enormous thunderstorm which caused gallons of water to soak the players, officials and fans unlucky enough to be in the exposed seats.
As fork lightning continued to strike and with the “game” (complete with plenty of slipping and sliding) only five minutes old, ref Kuipers suspended play and led the teams off.
This is almost unprecedented in major international tournaments. I say almost because at the World Cup in 1974, the final second group game between West Germany and Poland was delayed by a rain sodden pitch but went ahead the same day despite Polish complaints.
On this occasion, the suspension lasted the best part of an hour with UEFA officials frantically talking to Kuipers, allegedly putting him under significant pressure to restart soon.
It must be noted that due to TV rights and advertising, UEFA knew a postponement or having two games run into another would cause a loss of funds for themselves and their affiliates. Had the bad weather continued, Kuipers would have been put in a quandary by UEFA between prioritising the safety of the players and officials and risking financial loss for the tournament.
In the end, thanks to some excellent rake work by grounds staff, the game was able to restart with the pitch and the conditions in a satisfactory state.
Both sides were clean early on as both effectively warmed into the match but with France beginning to get on top and creating pressure as half-time drew near, Ukraine broke away from French a corner.
Jeremy Menez dragged back Andriy Shevchenko as he tried to develop the counter attack and Kuipers duly booked the French midfielder. There was little in it and it probably wasn’t deserving of a caution.
However in first-half stoppage time, Menez caught Yevgen Selin on the ankle late and should have been given a second yellow. Kuipers has effectively tried to make two wrongs equal a right. Yes, from an objective point of view Menez should have ended the first-half with a booking but if you have given a player a yellow and you doubt your decision, you still must send him off if he commits a second cautionable offence.
After the break and in between the two Gallic goals, Selin himself was booked for a classic “not as bad as it looked” tackle on Adil Rami. His slide tackle looked a little reckless but contact was quite minimal.
It seemed as the game drew on, Kuipers was saving up all his cards for the last ten minutes as he suddenly started to dole them out quite frequently. He was correct to yellow Mathieu Debuchy when he barged Yevhen Konoplyanka to the floor on 79 minutes, as he was to book Philip Mexes shortly after for a late tackle on Artem Milevskiy.
And there was little argument with his decision to caution Anatoliy Tymoshchuk with a few minutes left when he got very little on the ball when challenging Marvin Martin. So what’s the problem?
Kuipers had been letting these tackles go for the rest of match either ignoring them or letting the player off with a warning. You never got a sense that he was fully in control and adhering to an objective standard of foul play.
I criticised Kuipers for his inconsistent and somewhat indecisive performance when taking charge of Ireland against Croatia and I can’t say there has been too much improvement. It’s a shame but this is likely to be last game Kuipers officials at Euro 2012.
Ref’s rating: 6/10
Yellow cards: Milner (England) Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Svensson (Sweden)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Officials are instructed to adapt their style to that of the game and as many observers have noted, due to number of players that do or did ply their trade in England who were on the field (23 out of the 27 players who featured for the record) this had the feel and tempo of a Premier League game.
The traits that any referee should expect from a Premiership game include physical challenges, fast pacing and plenty of Route 1 football. And with two tall pony-tailed strikers at either end, that is exactly what we saw.
England’s beanpole Andy Carroll was the first to grab a goal after 23 minutes and Skomina’s assistants correctly spotted that he was onside for his header.
The Slovenian man in the middle felt the full force of the Liverpool striker’s power when he inadvertantly struck the ball at Skomina as the game approached half-time. But both saw the funny side and quickly made up.
However he failed to book Carroll when he came in rather ugly from behind on Kim Kallstrom at the beginning of the second-half which was more than deserving of a booking. Further punishment followed as the Swedes equalised from this free-kick.
Skomina did take the name of an England player just before the hour when James Milner clipped Martin Olsson as he sprinted forward and once again Eric Hamlen’s side scored from the resulting set-piece.
Goalscorer Olof Mellberg was cautioned shortly after for taking down Carroll as the game became more and more physical. His teammate Jonas Olsson joined him in the book ten minutes later for obstructing a kick from keeper Joe Hart.
With time running out and now England ahead, Anders Svensson was booked for what looked like dissent when Skomina had awarded Roy Hodgson’s team a freekick for handball.
Overall Skomina did a decent job with a few wrong calls here and there. He wasn’t quite as good as when he oversaw Denmark v Netherlands but in a frenetic game, there cannot be too many complaints. I don’t think we’ll see him at the sharp end of Euro 2012 however.
Ref’s rating: 7/10
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