The latest edition of Ref Review looks at Jozo Simunovic’s challenge on Kenny Miller in Saturday’s Old Firm derby.
Miller spoke of “excessive force” after the match when criticising the challenge. It’s refreshing to hear players use the actual terminology for the rules, since most will often wrongly attribute them. He’s also right. This was a classic case of a player using excessive force, but with one exception: it’s not actually a foul.
If Simunovic had been a split-second later, not made contact with the ball, or taken out Miller at the same time he played the ball, then there’s little doubt he would have been shown a straight red card.
However, as it stands, it’s a perfect example of a good, hard tackle. It’s the kind we used to love in Scottish football before tackles were cracked down on and players became apprehensive about making them at such speed for fear of being sent off if they got their timing wrong.
He wins the ball cleanly. It’s not simultaneous. He takes the ball and then he and Miller clatter into each other. What’s more, he makes the challenge with one leg, and does so with his studs pointed down (Image One, above).
He also comes in at a slight angle, which does make it a cleaner tackle. If he went in head-on, chances are he would have gone right through Miller on the follow, and then the referee would have been left with a big decision to make.
In the end, the contact is actually from Simunovic’s body, as his forearm goes into Miller’s knee when the Rangers striker is already in the air (Image Two, above). Miller goes flying because of this, which is what makes the challenge look worse than it actually is.
Referee John Beaton could have stopped play for the force of the challenge alone. Sometimes you’ll see referees doing this just to calm down the player involved, or the game as a whole. However, that would have put Beaton in an awkward position. People would have asked why he didn’t give a card given that he awarded the foul.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.