Commentary

Good luck and bad luck for the Foxes

By Paul Gardner

You hear it often enough: a team should rest assured that, over the course of a season, luck will more or less even out. In particular, hostile (and therefore wrong) referee decisions will be compensated by favorable ones. The accompanying wry grin will wordlessly convey that some of those will be “acceptably dodgy.”

How many coaches really believe in that, I have no idea, but it’s a comforting thought -- especially after a loss to a penalty kick “that was never a penalty.”

If there be soccer gods who keep records and make sure that everyone has a fair share of luck, they were on duty over the holidays (soccer gods evidently comply with the English schedule). They set about giving a rapid example how they can bestow luck and then take it quickly back.

They had Leicester City in their sights. In my previous column, just three days ago, I told how Leicester City had got away with one last Tuesday when the referee failed to award Manchester City a penalty kick.

Quite a big decision, that. The game ended 0-0, with Leicester -- the Foxes, they’re called -- keeping their really quite extraordinary championship challenge alive. The soccer gods were smiling. (Obviously, this was bad news for ManCity, but I’m not concerned with them here).

Lucky Leicester? Yes -- but not for long. The gods soon saw to that. Leicester must have gone into Saturday’s home game against Bournemouth -- hardly one of the EPL’s stronger teams -- with high hopes of taking all three points. That didn’t work out. The gods, so helpful to Leicester on Tuesday, decided to outfox the Foxes. They turned nasty on Saturday and took back the good fortune they’d handed the Foxes just four days earlier.

Another penalty kick situation. This time, Leicester did get the penalty kick -- a correct call by referee Andre Marriner. Riyad Mahrez took the kick -- and Bournemouth keeper Artur Boruc saved it. That was one of only two shots on target that Leicester had (Bournemouth had none) -- inevitably the game finished 0-0, and Leicester had failed to capture the extra two points the win would have given it.

Just how were the gods involved this time? By smiling on Bournemouth. Leicester should have been allowed to retake the penalty kick. Boruc’s save was illegal, as he had moved off his line. As Mahrez struck the ball, Boruc’s left foot was a yard or more in to the field, while his right foot was also illegally advanced. The assistant referee, standing on the goal line, in the perfect position to see, is specifically charged by the rules to indicate “whether, at penalty kicks, the goalkeeper moves off the goal line before the ball is kicked ...” But he saw nothing wrong, nor did referee Marriner, who had his eyes on the kicker Mahrez.

And neither of them noticed the clear encroachment, by both teams. Logically enough, as neither of them was looking in that direction. But that was another infringement that calls for the kick to be retaken.

As for goalkeeper movement, the exact timing of it -- relative to the taking of the kick -- is not easy for the AR to spot. For that reason, the goalkeeper -- yet again -- is generally given the benefit of the doubt and is allowed to make one forward movement as, or maybe very slightly before, the kick is made.

That seems a good practical compromise for a tricky problem. But Boruc’s movement -- involving both feet -- went way beyond the compromise. If even such blatant movement cannot be spotted by the AR, then the call should be made by an official -- the yet-to-be-appointed TV-judge -- who could very quickly make the decision from watching a replay.

Ruling that a kick be retaken for goalkeeper movement should also mean a yellow card for the goalkeeper. He is, after all, being allowed one possibly illegal move. Anything beyond that ought to be treated as cheating -- surely worth a yellow.

9 comments about "Good luck and bad luck for the Foxes ".
  1. steve foster, January 4, 2016 at 2:27 a.m.

    I think a yellow is given for reckless play or tactile fouls or if to deceive the ref, as in a dive by a forward. So, I agree that s yellow should be given for encroachment, similar to a wall where a player encroaches. So as a ref, I agree. I also believed that ad a coach, the calls do even themselves out. And as a fan, Leicester deserved 2 pks and should have won the game and be in first place! Up the Foxes!

  2. Brian Something, January 4, 2016 at 9:59 a.m.

    Boruc wasn't a step or two off. He was closer to the 6 yard box than the goal line. But this is England, after all, and all forms of cheating are tolerated, some venerated, except diving.

  3. Paul Roby, January 4, 2016 at 1:12 p.m.

    Well said, Brian, but allow me to offer the slightest of amendments: "...except diving by foreigners".

  4. Kent James, January 4, 2016 at 2:37 p.m.

    Encroachment by the field players can be called on almost every pk taken, so we have two choices. Either enforce the law, which would result in quite a few retakes until everyone got the idea, or rewrite the law to allow referees to only call encroachment when it matters (a rebound to an encroaching player, e.g.). Actually, I guess there are three options, with the third being don't rewrite the law and pretend as if you did, which I guess is what we do now...

  5. Ric Fonseca, January 4, 2016 at 3:03 p.m.

    Okidokes folks, here we go again, another Brit piece by PG, to who I want to yell out; ENOUGH AWREADY with the Brit pieces!!! As for the article above, I think I will nickname PG, Nit-Picky Paul, 'cause it sees that once or twice per week many of us are bored with his articles/pieces. But here's a thought, while watching a myriad of US football games, pro and collegiate, the number of times play was stopped so that "the play is further reviewed" the infinitesimal hair cutting in making sure whether a player went out of bounds or the kneww touched before the ball barely crossed the imaginary plane of the goal line or yard marker, made me want to tune in a good ole-futbol-soccer game, not with standing what Nit-Picky Paul would want the game officials to do. Get what I mean? Nit-Picky Paul seems to want the gamer officials to be exactly sure with a extremely high degree of exactness, and to me, obviously not really knowing just what in heck goes on in an officials mind as he's running his/her diagonal, keeping at least ten players (defenders and attackers) in plain sight and depending/hoping his/her RA's are having his back - and front. I still say that he, PG needs to don a game official's uniform, get some red/yellow cars, two good watches, two whistles (one in pocket in case he swallows or loses one)his commo gear to be in touch with the fourth official (if used) and to make sure he has his favorite saint's medallion, why? just to experience the what an official must do in a split second. And mind you this also goes to the incessantly crying in the Spanish language media whose commentators sure like to moan-groan-and bitch if a specific team "was cheated or helped by the referees, yada-yada!) Oh, heck, but I digress, so PLAY ON, I say!!!

  6. Footballer Forever replied, January 5, 2016 at 1:28 a.m.

    Quite predictable, boring and senseless individual that Pg is, huh?

  7. Scott Johnson, January 5, 2016 at 9:21 p.m.

    As you note, it's rather hard to watch a) the keeper's feet, and b) the penalty spot simultaneously, in order to ensure that the kicker strikes the ball before the goalie moves--so I'm not surprised that keeper encroachments that aren't blatant, aren't called. As eye focus changes between the two locations, there will always be a window of time where the AR is not sure. If at one moment the AR sees the ball not struck and the keeper on his line, and the next moment the ball is in flight and the keeper is in motion, what should the ruling be?

  8. Kent James replied, January 8, 2016 at 5:33 p.m.

    The AR can watch the keeper and listen for the ball to be struck (as they do for offside); the more challenging question is how much movement is enough to call, and unfortunately, that really should be the ref's call (not the ARs), since it is "their game". If one stuck to a strict interpretation of the rules, most keepers would be called for moving off the line. Perhaps, if the ARs called it every time, the keepers would learn. In the meantime, it would be ugly. And then it becomes a question of how much movement actually makes a difference. And that (for better or worse) is where refereeing becomes an art, rather than a science (and since the CR is the primary artist painting the picture, a call of that magnitude really should be left to him).

  9. Scot Sutherland, January 10, 2016 at 10:09 p.m.

    I have always struggled with the goalkeeper movement rules during penalty kicks. The whole penalty kick thing is simply a big mess of a problem. There are also movement rules for players taking the kick. The original intent was for the kick taker to be "honest" and not stop during the kick and wait for the keeper to move. But players essentially stop when they hesitate, waiting for the keeper to commit and placing the ball in the opposite direction. So keepers have compensated by using the "pause" to close the angle. I'm not sure what the best procedure would be. Perhaps both players can move once the whistle is blown. That would put a premium on the kicker taking it quickly and the keeper staying on the line until the whistle blows.

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