Debate: Should the last man be shown a red despite a penalty being awarded?

Is sending off the last man a case of 'triple punishment' - red card, penalty and a suspension from the next game, or fair judgement of the foul committed...
By Shikharr Chandra & Brendon Netto

The two big clashes in the Champions League round of 16 this week have served up a common theme. Manchester City and Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at home to Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. When the draw was initially made, the footballing world salivated over the prospect of these sides going head-to-head but both games were dampened by a red card each.

That has sparked an argument over the necessity of a team having to go down to ten men while conceding a penalty as well. Below, two Goal editors give their views on either side of the arguement.

"The repercussions are too high for one mistake"

By Shikharr Chandra

After waiting for more than two months to catch up with Champions League football again, it is a shame that the two ties that promised so much going into the round of 16 ended up being decided by two major refereeing decisions.  

Manchester City and Arsenal suffered similar fate when Martin Demichelis and Wojciech Szczesny were sent off in their respective games, decisions which would soon change the tide of the game. It thus gives both the English sides a mountain to climb in the Champions League second leg.

I think now its time to revamp the 'last man' rule in football. Often we have seen how the last man has been sent off for fouling the opposition attacker but is it justified?

In the game against Arsenal and Bayern Munich, Szczesny was sent off for fouling Arjen Robben but despite being the last man was there any certainty that the Bayern winger would have scored, considering three more defenders were present inside the box and Robben had pretty much lost control of the ball as well.

What that red card resulted in was a player sent off, goal for Bayern, suspension from the second leg and the manager being forced to alter his tactics. The repercussions are too high for one mistake.

Yes, if the player is malicious with his tackle or does what Luis Suarez did against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, then the red card is justified because the intention of the player is to stop the opposition come what may - which isn't in the spirit of fair play.

In the said Champions League games, the red card ended up killing the contest and stopping it from becoming a spectacle.

“It (red card and subsequent suspension) seems excessive, the penalty is itself already is punishment enough. I think it’s something that everyone in FIFA and UEFA agree, but one or two of the countries that make up the International Board are unwilling to change," said UEFA president Michel Platini.

An alternative can be instead of sending off a player, why not show him a yellow card and award a penalty to the opposition. At least it won't stop the game from becoming one-sided and kill the entertainment for the millions watching.

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"Altering the rule may only make things more complicated"

By Brendon Netto

Two of the most anticipated ties in this season’s Champions League have been ruined to a certain extent because of the ‘triple punishment’ that entails that the offender must be dismissed and suspended while the opposing team is awarded a penalty and I certainly understand the discontent over that.

However, despite the fact that sometimes the consequences seem harsh, altering the rule may only make things more complicated. For example, if Wojciech Szczesny or Martin Demichelis were only handed yellow cards and the subsequent penalties were missed (as one of them were), where’s the advantage for the team that created a fantastic opportunity? Often the penalty may not be as good an opportunity as the one they had before the foul.

The biggest concern is that a red card ‘ruins the spectacle’ as one side is then bound to sit back and defend while the other tries to break them down. However, if the card wasn’t brandished, it could give way to cynicism. Soon we’d see defenders deliberately bringing down attackers in the knowledge that they can’t get sent off. Players are hardly averse to the so-called ‘dark arts’ of the game like the regular shirt-pulling for instance and this would only give them another underhanded tactic to employ.

When Lionel Messi was through on goal, Demichelis’ tackle denied us the opportunity to see how the situation unfolded. How would he attempt to score? Would he try to round Joe Hart or chip it over him or would the Englishman pull off a brilliant save? Now we’ll never know – how’s that for ruining the spectacle? Without the punishment of a red card, we’d see a lot more defenders taking matters into their own hands.

What about Luis Suarez’s handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup? That was disgraceful and none could argue against the red card but if players are only booked for illegal tackles inside the box, deliberate or not, then a Suarez-like incident would also result in only a yellow card. And what that does is encourage players to cheat knowing full well that the punishment is well worth the crime.

Perhaps the suggestion could surface that only cynical fouls or handballs should warrant red cards but then we would be entering another grey area and the game already has enough of those. What would be deemed ‘cynical’ is ultimately a matter of opinion and it's also unreasonable to expect the referee to deduce the players' intentions correctly. It would only complicate things further and there would still be plenty of scope for controversy.

It’s unfortunate that a red card can make a game less exciting but at some point, the competitiveness and professionalism of the sport must be respected and taken priority over entertainment. Sometimes a player will be sent off purely because of a mistake on his part rather than an attempt to gain an advantage but that’s how the rules should be – clearly defined and absolute, especially in the interest of consistency.

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What is YOUR opinion on this topic? Leave your comments below or discuss with our experts @ShikharrC and @BrendonNetto on Twitter.

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