The Last Man Stand Off

After a mishmash of ‘money-spinning’ friendlies, Monday night kick offs and early European exits, none of which constitute a proper start to the season, the SPL finally kicked into gear with all six games being played over the weekend, shocking I know. Apart from Aberdeen continuing their endless quest to prove that Jimmy Calderwood was actually not that bad and evidence once again that even Alan McGregor and Frank McAvennie would struggle to score if they were to go out on the pull in a St. Johnstone shirt, one of the increasingly more contentious issues in the modern game reared its head, not once but twice.

What constitutes a goal scoring opportunity and in the act of stopping that opportunity is a red card a punishment too far?

Lets look at the two cases from the weekend and take it from there: Firstly there was Ross Tokely for Inverness Caledonian Thistle against Rangers, sent off for what was perceived as a tackle from behind on Steven Naismith whilst stopping a goal scoring opportunity by referee Euan Norris. My verdict: Yellow Card, Penalty awarded.

Although Tokely won the ball the tackle itself involved a scissor motion that if Naismith tumbled in a different way could have resulted in a serious injury. Was it a clear goal scoring opportunity, debatable but I think the method of tackle left the referee with little choice but to award the penalty. If the referee has sent Tokely off for perceived dangerous play then the red card is the correct call, even if the logic is flawed, but if he is sending him off for a goalscoring oppritunity then I am afraid he is wrong.

The second big ‘last man’ call of the weekend came at McDiarmid Park where John Potter was sent off for a deliberate trip on Francisco Sandaza in the penalty area. Sandaza coming in on the angle had seemingly got past the defender but by using his trailing leg and extending the point of his toe out a bit further Potter brought his man down. My Verdict: Yellow Card. Penalty.

The double motion on Potter’s foot as Sandaza went round the back of him showed that the foul was cynical and intended to prevent the striker going any further forward but with two defenders within the vacinity including Jason Thomson who hoofed the ball clear moments after the incident had taken place it would be churlish to suggest that it was a clear goalscoring opportunity. Perhaps if it was Messi or Van Persie but Francisco Sandaza not so much.

In both of these incidents the defending teams were punished twice, although has already been mentioned John Potter probably knew St. Johnstone were going to miss, resulting in being a man down and the clear scoring opportunity being presented to the attacking side in the form of a penalty.

Before giving a final analysis on what should and should not constitute a red card in relation to goal scoring opportunities I would like to bring in the incident involving Kieran Richardson and Luis Suarez at the weekend. Suarez whilst clear through on goal had rounded Sunderland keeper Steven Mignolet narrowing the angle, whilst behind him he was caught by a chasing Kieran Richardson, quite rightly resulting in a penalty.

The decision by referee Phil Dowd to give just a yellow card was the sensible and correct thing to do. There was no clear indication of whether the foul committed by Richardson was intentional and therefore to send him off for a collision that could have been accidental would have been harsh. The penalty award punished the defending team and gave the opportunity for Liverpool to get their clear goal scoring opportunity, which Luis Suarez did his best Brazilian impression in sending it high and wide (Brazil’s penalties at the Copa America: WORST. EVER.).

The main question is, is stopping a clear goal scoring opportunity worthy of a red card offence? Well yes if you handle the ball in the final minute of extra time in a World Cup Quarter final or if a blatant foul professional or otherwise is committed clear for all to see then yes. However if there is even the smallest hint of doubt then surely a yellow card and a penalty has to be the only protocol.

A yellow card would have to be given as a recognition of a foul committed and the penalty will provide the precious ‘clear goal scoring opportunity’ that the attacking team have been denied. Just as if Suarez, Sandaza and Naismith had got clear through on goal there is scope for the penalty not to be converted just as there is scope for a clear scoring opportunity not to be converted, just ask Kenny Miller.

There will always be debate about what is and is not intentional when stopping a potential goal but to send a man off for a tackle that anywhere else on the pitch would have seen yellow is a punishment too far and where any element of doubt should be totally disregarded as its near the goal is wrong is wrong and the sooner there is clarity on this the better. I imagine it will be sorted round about the same time as corruption, goal-line technology, dissent, financial fair play, gambling syndicates……

Your video treat today those wonderful, wonderful penalties from the Copa America Quarter Final between Paraguay and Brazil


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