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Question Number: 34967

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/3/2023

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

Here's a great example of a play that divides opinions right down the middle.

"Clear penalty" say many of the commenters. "Defending free kick" say the others.

I'm wondering if it will split the panel into two camps!

I had a similar play a few years ago, outside the PA. Attacker was running with the ball and wound up to shoot, when a defender placed his foot between the ball and the shooting foot. The attacker was tripped when the defender absorbed the kick and I called a DFK for the attackers. No complaints were offered.

Question: Every situation will have its own nuances, but if the defender is in playing distance of the ball, do they have the right to put their foot in between the ball and the shooting foot? And if they DO get kicked, what is the foul?

If the defender actually plays the ball first, the situation tips greatly in their favour, of course.

(From my reading of the comments, the ref and VAR denied the PK and gave the free kick to the defending team.)

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Barry,
I can recall several incidents where PKS for the attackers. and DFKS for the defenders are argued due to circumstances that appear to validate one perception over the other .

An unsafe challenge that translate into a potential injury when excessive force is used does not permit getting to the ball first . It is why the saying " (I got the ball ) does not excuse a bad vicious tackle.

However, you are correct, that who last touches the ball has generally a better shot at claiming they were the aggrieved party when collision times comes as a normal coming together.

There is an element of risk in a contact sport and interjecting body parts to block an opponent has a degree of fault which is measured by who did what & when.

As you are aware in arm chair review video biases from slow motion rewind and freeze frame will taint the angle of view on the pitch in the split second the debated action occurs!

My two colleagues Ref Grove and Ref McHugh were very diligent and tracked down other videos that are not geographically restricted

There is no doubt those in blue will expect the PK for being tripped and robbed of a goal scoring opportunity where those in red will say nothing to see here but solid positioning and defending .

Two opponents who had yet to touch the ball after the save by the keeper.
The ball is free to be challenged.
In my opinion this is the proverbial 50/50 ball.
They both were both in playing distance.
The attacker was seeking to kick it and in the process to do so .
The defender stepped in and blocked the kick while shielding the ball.
Did he contact the attacker in that step in moment?
He did move across at an intercept angle.
The attacker was running forward.
I looked hard but did not see an ankle bite on the standing leg of the attacker.
So the leg in arrived without contact.
I did see the shin of the attackers' bent leg catch the defender's calf from behind .
I noted the sideways motion of the collision.
I also noted that rather than kick the ball the defender stepped past but in front of it ?
Was it to shield or simply a ploy to create contact with the shooter?
Did the defender get to the better position FIRST?
I suspect if a PK WAS given it would not be met with complete derision.
My guts says NO PK & a DFK out is the correct decision .
Could it have been play on as a coming together?
Possibly but you would have to sell it.
The decider item for me neither player touched the ball thus
This incident does not meet my tripping spider senses only the my kicking senses

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
Thanks for the question,

As you say this could be interpreted either way hence the divided opinions.
My opinion is that Arsenal #5 was entitled to go for the ball in a shielding motion which he did and then his leg was kicked by Man City #17.
As the last player to play the ball was the goalkeeper the balll was there to be played by either of the two players.
Looking at the video closely I do not see any action by Red #5 that he "targeted" Blue#17 in a manner intended to trip him.. I opine that Red was intending to place himself in a shielding manner at the ball and that there was contact between the players. One could opine that Blue kicked Red who was moving into a shielding position or that Red tripped Blue hence the quandary.

Put it another way it would be a very harsh penalty to award

Now this action should not be confused with a player not playing the ball and putting his leg into to stop an opponent kicking the ball just before the kicking motion is completed with no contact on the ball. That is where the player fails to play the ball and the action ends up as a tripping foul.

For what its worth I believe the best decision was made in real time and that was supported by VAR who did not ask for an on-pitch review. Many times we as referees are confronted with situations that may not fit neatly into clear cut decisions. Rather than giving no decision the best decision can be the one that is least contentious in a game context.
In this one 3 minutes in with a questionable penalty award would not have been best for the game. As it turned out the referee crew had a good solid game dealing with all the major incidents and not being the major centre of attention.
Post match the discussion was around the goals with the only real debate about the 2nd goal which was VAR reviewed for possible offside and it was a matter of fact decision as to location of players at the moment the ball was played rather than a judgement call.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Barry,
We're guessing that the incident you refer to is the one involving Thomas Partey of Arsenal and Kevin de Bruyne of Man City in the recent game between their teams.

If so, I think the referee made the correct decision here. For me, Partey has made a legitimate move to shield the ball and has then been kicked on the back of the leg by de Bruyne.

Now, there's not a massive, massive difference between this and other similar incidents that I've seen, where the attacking player was already swinging their leg to play the ball and the defender stuck a leg in to block the kick but each case is different and must be judged on its merits and in this particular case (if it is indeed the one you meant) I think the foul is by the attacking player.

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