The latest edition of Ref Review looks at Scott Brown’s two-footed challenge on Hearts striker Juanma, while also looking at the two yellow cards dished out to Juwon Oshaniwa later in the match.
Scott Brown should have been sent off for the challenge on Juanma. It’s clear that he jumps into the tackle, with both feet leaving the ground, and the challenge is two-footed. It is exactly the type of tackle that is punishable by a red card in today’s game that probably wouldn’t have been 20 years ago. You can bemoan the harsh, present day interpretation of these rules and how players are being wrapped in cotton wool, but the fact remains these are still the rules of the game. If Brown didn’t deserve to walk, he should have been given a yellow card at the very least.
The reason he escaped punishment entirely is down to a number of factors. First, let’s consider the position of Bobby Madden, visible in Image One. Celtic had just taken a throw-in in an attacking area, so Madden took up a position in the centre of the park so that he would be in a reasonable spot if the ball was crossed into the box. As you can see, Madden has a clear sight but there is a Hearts player coming across his field of vision. It’s possible that when the point of contact is made, Madden is partially unsighted, or even distracted by the Hearts player.
We must also consider what the challenge looks like from Madden’s angle. You can’t expect everything to look exactly the same from the other side. Our vantage point (high and to Brown’s left) could be completely different to what Madden sees (low and to the right). It’s likely that he only gets a clear look at Brown’s right leg, which could be covering his left and therefore disguising the two-footed nature of the foul. The linesman could have helped, but he’s looking at the challenge from behind, which is never a great angle. The fourth official is in the best position to see it and should have intervened.
Something that counts in Brown’s favour is his angle to Juanma when he makes the challenge. Head-on challenges always look worse. Coming in at a side-on angle, as Brown does (visible in Image Two), always makes the tackle look cleaner and therefore the player making it looks more in control than he maybe is. He also won the ball. We’ve explained before in a previous article how it can definitely be a foul regardless of whether you play the ball but it certainly helps.
The time of the game also has to be taken into account. In a vacuum, this is a bad challenge, but with everyone still warming up in the contest - players, fans, the referee - it feels more low key than if it had occurred in the 87th minute. There’s little intensity, there’s no ill-will simmering yet, and so the reaction to the challenge is a lot less fervent. Even Hearts.TV commentator Laurie Dunsire, a Hearts fan working for Hearts, was pretty calm about it after watching the replay - he didn’t seem to be outraged about the lack of a card.
The same goes for the Hearts players, even Juanma. For all his strengths, there’s no doubt the Spaniard likes an exaggerated roll on the turf. He did it after an aerial battle from Erik Sviatchenko a minute later, which wasn’t a serious foul. At the Brown tackle, he, and the rest of his team-mates, didn’t react.
Fans will say this shouldn’t interfere with a referee’s decision, but it’s human nature to at least be swayed subconsciously if there’s an explosion of anger all around you. The only disgruntlement from Hearts came in the aftermath when their sense of injustice was heightened by the red card given to Juwon Oshaniwa.
The Nigerian’s first booking is deserved. It’s common for fans to deem aerial challenges not worthy of a booking. Perhaps this is because referees are less inclined to give cards unless players lead when an elbow or forearm, or maybe it’s because they’re not as common as fouls on the deck. Regardless, under the rules they still have the right to issue one.
Think of it this way, ignore the fact that it was in air. What else do we know about the foul? Oshaniwa was late, he didn’t get the ball, he was careless in his approach, he went in at speed and he hurt his opponent (and himself). Tom Rogic was a stationary target; Oshaniwa clattered into him (Image Three). If it was a slide tackle it would definitely merit a yellow card, so why not in this instance?
The second one wasn’t a foul, but it’s much easier to tell from the replay. At first it looks like he comes through the first Celtic player to get the ball and then also catches Rogic. But, as you see in Image Four, it’s pretty clean. His studs are showing a bit, but the tackle is fully in control and it was at low speed. Play should not have been stopped, let alone a second booking issued.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPLStats on Twitter.
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