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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Carvalho & Gunnarsson acts call for revision of penalties

Three games kicked up earlier than the others yesterday afternoon. Chelsea v Aston villa, Spurs v Fulham and West Ham v Reading. All three games carried five dismissals altogether, three in one game.

Watched the highlights of the Stamford Bridge match, which the pundits around on TV and radio are hailing as a fantastic game. For the neutrals, of course, it was fantastic, but not as a fan of either side. Or a former manager. Joe Mourinho said of a high scoring match either side that such a match was not good as it goes on to expose defensive frailties of both sides. And he is right.

Gabriel Agbonlahor simply caught out Chelsea's left side, who left him alone enough to chip towards John Carew, who headed across for Shaun Maloney to hit past Petr Cech. With Ricardo Carvalho in defence, I felt he would hold the line firm but Chelsea were stretched. What would Mourinho have felt about Villa's second, a shot from Maloney that Cech should have gathered comfortably yet it was almost a carbon copy of the first Croatia goal at Wembley not so long ago. How Carson must have looked on and sympathised. Maloney was not closed down.

Then the penalty. It wasn't in my opinion, any contact from Zat Knight must have been minimal and not exerted enough to cause such a foul. Michael Ballack clearly dived to exaggerate and Phil Dowd's miserable grouchy self gave it and the red card to Knight. Penalty coolly deposited by Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian was put on fire and he responded in the 2nd half with a superb shot from outside the box to equalise, with Alex adding another with a sweet run and link up with Shevchenko. Yet more defensive frailties as an Ashley Young freekick was evaded by all but Martin Laursen for Villa's equaliser, not one Chelsea defender went to that ball.

Then the second dismissal. What the heavens was Carvalho thinking as he just dived in on Agbonlahor with both feet like an eagle on its prey?? Notwithstanding that Agbonlahor was about to run on goal and could have left Carvalho, as the last defender, for dust, the Portuguese was certainly uncharacteristic with that challenge. But a freekick for Chelsea with two minutes to go brought a superb show of technique and skill from Ballack as he curled the ball away and past Carson. Yet that was put to the side as Villa attacked with injury time looming, the ball dangerously bouncing in front of the Chelsea goal and Ashley Cole diverting it away. The decision was given that handball occurred and Cole was sent off. Replays showed the ball more likely bounced off Cole's chest. Gareth Barry scored from the spot-kick.

So for me two penalties and two dismissals that were not.

I watched West Ham v Reading. When Reading went behind, I felt they have a good attacking approach that could gift them an equaliser because West ham were coming forward but not utilising the space and speed they worked up in front of Reading's goal. Freddie Ljungberg and Scott Parker were guilty of not providing across goal when given the excellent chance to. Reading were reduced to ten when Brynjar Gunnarsson won one tackle and then launched into a two-footed lunge on Hayden Mullins. So bizarre, rightly dismissed.

West Ham scored fortuitously as Carlton Cole slipped over the ball but mixed up defending allowed Nolberto Solano to control and slip past the Reading keeper. Reading equalised in the second half as Nicky Shorey chipped a sweet reverse ball for Dave Kitson to volley past Rob Green. Reading with eleven players may well have stolen the points but overall a draw was fair.

Both tackles by the players in question very much could have caused a horrific injury, much less a broken bone. A straight red and three games out could make or break a side's next three games, but the long-term of a player on the end of such challenges is a far more serious issue to consider. What more can be done to stamp this challenge out? Introduce huge fines too? Because I felt it would wither away from football, we are not taught to tackle with two feet so at professional level we are not supposed to be seeing it, yet there we are with two such incidents early in the day.

As far as I am concerned, huge fines are a must in such circumstances. While I think Ashley Cole and Zat Knight have good cause to appeal their dismissals, Carvalho and Gunnarsson certainly need to do more than apologise. Such conduct should compel the instigator to contribute to the cost of any recovery for the injured.



Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman for a great commentary of some of yesterday's action.

I remember last season on EFT we discussed Ben Thatcher's horrific running elbow smash against the head of Pedro Mendes and called for a punitive sanction to add to the auto 3 match ban. From memory he was later given an extra five match ban on top of the automatic three - so a precedent is there for obvious malicious violent conduct.

Although the two-footed challenge should rightly be punished by removal from the pitch and further match suspension there is a danger in going further than the alloted three-match ban because sometimes as in Didier Zokoro's two-footed challenge against a Man City player last week and John Obi Mikel's at Old Trafford earlier this season- both resulting in a red card - it is clear that there is no malicous intent but merely clumsiness in trying to win a loose ball. To add further penalties in these two incidents would in my view been to go over the top in meting out punishment.

Surely the key is for managers to educate the players that it is now clear that this sort of challenge is to be treated with a straight red - they can't get away with it like I recall Flamini getting away with it against Bolton two seasons back or a young Steve Gerrard who I recall on a couple of occasions jumping in two-footed without getting a red.

So for me keep the punishment as it is but the FA should reserve the right as they did in the Thatcher case to add further punishment if deemed that the two-footed challenge was particularly malicous. And in the meantime educate the players that the two-footed challenge - let alone from the danger it poses to a fellow professional - is only going to result in your expulsion from the pitch: so don't do it.

12/27/2007 7:13 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

It maybe clumsiness and therefore a down grade on a full out intentional challenge but a two-footed challenge is such, immaterial of intention or not. The clumsiness could be regarded as reckless so nonetheless the instigator is still liable. Such a tackle two footed is still two footed and still potentially dangerous to committing a severe injury. I dont think Mikel's challenge was two-footed per the rules, the discretion of the referee is final in that respect.


12/27/2007 10:17 pm

Blogger Skipper said...

Great article.

I don’t understand why we are seeing so many dangerous tackles these days. I think referees are rightly sending players off.
I agree with T, it is up to mangers to educate their players.

I don’t like seeing these kind of tackles.

12/27/2007 11:23 pm

Anonymous alex butterfield said...

With one crazy rush of blood Carvalho has possibly ended Chelsea's title challenge.

With Terry and Lampard already out, his team winning a game they didn't deserve to be, all Carvalho had to do was go in hard with the instep of one foot.

(If he missed he could have taken a yellow card by holding Agbonlahor back - if he really thought he needed to)

But one awful tackle (that could have ended Agbonlahor's promising career had it been an inch to the right) Villa are back in the game and Chelsea are in trouble. (I expect Cole's red will be retracted, so they won't be without him)

But now Chelsea have Alex and Ben Haim (who has been poor since his move) for this busy period - Newcastle and Fulham (and Spurs a little while later). If their defensive frailties continue they could drop yet more points and it's quite realistic that by the time Carvalho returns Chelsea will have a 13 point gap to close on Man Utd.


To return to your original point:

I think that there is a need for harsher and more frequent punishment for bad fouls.

The two footed tackle of the sort Carvalho made has no place in the game. It seriously can end careers.

What are we waiting for? That to happen?

If a tackle ends a career after a year of a player trying to rehabilitate and failing, do you then retrospectively punish the culprit? It's crazy.

The punishment to fit to the crime has to be set in place before hand otherwise it is not a deterrent.

Personally, I would like to see the FA review all games and pick up on off the ball tackles and elbows, etc. and hand out standard bans.

I am bothered by the inconsistency of the video review board to punish in retrospect - it is the only way to prevent off the ball incidents and a further preventative measure against reckless tackles.

Players who raise a hand to the face should get a one game ban.

Players who hit another in the face or deliberately elbow, head-butt, or kick out, or otherwise attack another player in a way unlikely to cause serious injury, should get a three match ban.

Players who lunge two footed or stamp or otherwise recklessly endanger another player should be handed out hefty bans, I'm talking 10 games, 15 games etc.

If a player premeditates a deliberate attempt to injure a player (eg. Keane's infamous tackle) they should be prosecuted as well as banned by the FA. - the length of such a ban is difficult to quantify, it's been suggested that a culprit should remain banned as long as his victim is injured, or that life-bans should be handed out... I don't know about those suggestions, but it is clear that something has to be done.

I think this highlights a bigger issue which is the inconsistency of refereeing standards in England (at least). There needs to be an overhaul of refereeing completely, including the ambiguous offside issues, sending offs for handling on the line (I've heard the suggestion that a player might not be dismissed until after the penalty is taken, and then only if the penalty is missed - which has its problems, but might work)

I don't want to go on too long, I'll leave it.

12/28/2007 9:54 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Alex, I agree with you entirely. The crust of it is something more stringent needs to be evident to cease the challenge completely. That a player will never even think of committing such a challenge much less doing it.

Further, such conduct as with Keane on Haaland should have found Keane prosecuted. The football field is not exempt from the laws of the nation and what Keane did was not in the practice of the game but more to do with thuggery, which would have found any instigator immediately arrested.


12/28/2007 5:42 pm

Anonymous alex butterfield said...

I'm watching Fox Soccer Channel right now in the US, and the advert that has just finished showed Jon Obi Mikel's tackle (that earned him a red card, against Man Utd?) from two different angles! as part of their montage.

It made me think about how violence in the game is viewed as exciting and passionate.

Think of the way Neil Warnock shouts 'Do him!' (among other things) from the sidelines: he says he doesn't mean to actually encourage violence, but he kinda does.

And think of the way that Rafa Benitez was criticised for withdrawing Gerrard when he was playing with 'too much passion' against Everton.

I think there is a deep rooted admiration, lust perhaps, for violent sport. (UFC is growing in popularity, Boxing is as big as ever).

I played many years of Sunday League before I moved out here, and witnessed comments like: "Alright lads, this ref i'nt doing nowt, make sure you hurt 'em", followed by a rash of some of the nastiest tackles I've ever seen. I was injured by a deliberate kick in that game, and it kept me out for a month or so. The culprit (of that foul and the comments), was the opposition captain, a police-man by trade, and the referee was indeed to weak to stand-up to this kind of open thuggery. Of course you take that in your stride if you play Sunday League, but I think it highlights the attitude of a huge proportion of football fans... who enjoy seeing violent play.

I don't know what can be done about it, it might be something that appeals to our animal instincts. It has to start at the top though. As long as the premiership advocates/allows violent tackles then people will emulate that.

12/28/2007 8:22 pm

Anonymous alex butterfield said...

I just read this

on the BBC website.

Although Cole and Knight were given straight Red Cards and their appeals denied, they will serve only a one match ban.

Is that the standard? I was under the impression that straight reds carried a three match ban (or is that only for violent conduct)?

Either way, it is another example of a poor decision by the appeals board.

Ballack clearly dived, and replays seem to corroborate Cole's claim that he headed the ball clear. The way the FA stands up for it's referees is just daft - no wonder some refs believe it is all about them.

12/28/2007 9:13 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Alex, first on Sunday league. My goodness the amount of unnecessary conduct you endure or find in the matches is unreal, and the pressure on referees is abysmal. It is worse when you have adults against adults, and I can sympathise with the account you detailed above. Doesnt surprise me that a policeman said it, I have played them and they carry themselves, most of them, with some ignorance and bullying tactics and comments as if they are of a higher social climate than yourselves, even more so if you're an ethnic. Sunday league football is practically another time zone, another place.

and the rejected appeals of Ashley Cole and Zat Knight. Both granted straight red, both should therefore serve three match bans yet one match seems to be the punishment. Bizarre. The whole point behind a straight red is to not wait for two yellows, the offence is such that a straight red card is required. Such an offence must warrant a stringent punishment, hence the three match ban. Just bizarre administration.

In the US, Alex, is the current climate of the TV watcher preferring the bad side of sports, severe injuries, fighting, maybe a streaker or two? Would they prefer scenes like those being more excitable than the competitiveness of the sport in question?


12/29/2007 2:39 pm

Anonymous alex butterfield said...

The Cole/Knight ban is pretty weird: almost like the FA is admitting they are wrong - but not completely.

I don't know how to answer your question about the US.

I've heard a lot of 'opinion' on 'soccer', often contradictory.

Many people find it a boring sport, complaining of low scoring games (if only they turned on the Premier League recently!), many consider it a 'sissy', unimportant sport, like we'd view, say, basketball in England. However, I've also heard the opinion that 'soccer is an excuse for a fight', people drawing reference from hooliganism, and other fan violence recently which sometimes makes the news here, and I've seen clips of nasty tackles on 'wild video' TV shows too. In California there is the stereotype of Mexican soccer players as very rough, which might go towards that standpoint.

(I played a season in a mexican immigrant league in San Jose a couple of years ago. I couldn't understand a word of what was said, the only thing I picked up on was "tranquillo", which teammates kept saying to me (that's calm down, btw). I guess the rough rep they have doesn't really compare to English Sunday League - isn't like I'm dirty or nothing, in England I've had one yellow card - for encroachment! but there's a mentality of soft play throughout American soccer. In the league I play in now, I was threatened with a red card by a ref for calling for an offside. Literally putting my arm in the air and calling 'Offside!', he told me that making calls were his game, one more time and I was off. I also converted an American friend, ice-hockey player, to footie, and he loves the physical side of English football.)

Just last night a player where I play indoor, was telling me he used to play American Football and Ice-Hockey and thought soccer was sissy, but now thinks its one of the most physical games he's played.

So it's hard to say what the deal is over here. I think soccer is still at such a primitive cultural level as far as media coverage, audiences, understanding of the game, and just plain exposure (my wife is American, her two little brothers of 9 and 11 have never heard of Beckham!) that there is no consensus yet; networks like Fox Soccer Channel don't feel the obligation to tackle the issues of sport, instead they try to appeal to as many people as possible, if that means sensationalising the goals and the bad tackles then that's what they do.

12/30/2007 7:45 am

Blogger Skipper said...

Alex, great to read your comments, I play my self. I can assure you every decision is contested here, no matter what level you play at. Sometimes it’s taken way too far. That is the reason why I have stopped playing competitive football.

About the sending off; I think they only got one match ban because there was no violent conduct involved. In fact, I am sure this is the legitimate reason.

12/30/2007 1:39 pm


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