By Steven Saunders
They say bad decisions even themselves out over the course of the season – yet on Sunday it seemed as though Arsenal and Manchester United's grounds for complaint were balanced out over the course of 90 minutes.
Big games are always likely to present big decisions, and referee Chris Foy and his assistant Andrew Garratt were found sadly lacking in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory.
At half-time, it was the home side who were nursing a grievance – but by the end of the game they could consider themselves a little fortunate not to have conceded at least one penalty.
Here, Goal.com analyses what happened – and what went wrong for the officials…
Incident: Theo Walcott delivers an outswinging cross from the right touchline that is travelling directly for Robin van Persie’s head. However, the ball is deflected away by Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic at full stretch. Replays show that Vidic clearly uses his hand to flick the ball away from van Persie’s head.
The law: Deliberate handball that prevents an obvious goalscoring opportunity should be punished with a sending off. Intentional handball within the penalty area should result in a penalty kick.
The ref’s decision: Referee Foy and assistant Garratt awarded a corner kick to Arsenal.
What should have happened: Foy, with Garratt’s assistance, should have awarded a penalty and dismissed Vidic. Manchester United could potentially have been a goal down and a man down with 58 minutes still to play. They also would have been without Vidic for next weekend’s match against Chelsea, as he would have incurred an automatic suspension for a straight red card.
Incident: United are awarded a free kick around 25 yards from the Arsenal goal, and to the left of centre. The ball is touched to Wayne Rooney who curls a shot towards goal, only for it to hit Aaron Ramsey’s outstretched hand. Replays show Ramsey’s hand is directly above the 18-yard line when contact is made.
The law: As above, although because this was not an obvious goalscoring opportunity, no red card is necessary. Deliberate handball does not constitute a bookable offence. No provision is made in the laws of the game for whether an offence that occurs on the line of the penalty area is deemed inside or outside the box – it is left to the judgement of the referee.
The ref’s decision: A free kick on the edge of the penalty area. No disciplinary action against Ramsey.
What should have happened: The resulting free kick was placed outside the area – assistant referee Garratt should have informed referee Foy that the offence had taken place on the line. It then would have been left to the referee to decide whether it constituted a penalty and not a free kick.
Incident: A pass is played through to Michael Owen in the penalty area, and as he turns to run after the ball, he falls to the turf under a challenge from Gael Clichy. Replays show that Clichy leg traps Owen’s calf and prevents him from running.
The law: If a player trips or attempts to trip an opponent, and the offence occurs inside the penalty area, a penalty kick should be awarded. A player who denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent advancing towards his goal can be sent off.
The ref’s decision: Nothing. No penalty, and therefore no disciplinary action against Clichy.
What should have happened: A penalty should have been awarded. Clichy could have been sent off if referee Foy had deemed it a goalscoring opportunity and decided that Owen was advancing towards the Arsenal goal.
So which team should feel most aggrieved? Have your say by leaving a comment below, and we’ll include the best comments in this article.