Why the referee didn’t send off Kipre for his tackle on Dembele

Motherwell's Cedric Kipre (left) challenges Celtic's Moussa Dembele. Picture: SNS
Motherwell's Cedric Kipre (left) challenges Celtic's Moussa Dembele. Picture: SNS
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The latest edition of Ref Review looks at Cedric Kipre’s challenge on Moussa Dembele early in the Betfred Cup final.

READ MORE - Motherwell 0 - 2 Celtic: Controversy as Celtic win Betfred Cup

Picture One

Picture One

Kipre’s tackle is definitely a red card. In real time it looked absolutely fine, but replays show it was high and uncontrolled. He’s not absolutely flying into the challenge at full speed, but it’s still a fairly robust tackle and seeing as he goes over the top of the ball it qualifies for using “excessive force”. And there is no doubt he is “endangering the safety of an opponent” as it could have caused serious injury to Dembele.

There’s no malice involved. He’s on the stretch and mistimed his lunge. Intent doesn’t have to come into it, though, especially when it’s a defender putting his studs into the leg of an opponent with a planted foot (Picture One). Dembele actually gets caught under Kipre’s boot for a split-second and he’s lucky it wasn’t something more serious than a bruised ankle.

The reason referee Craig Thomson doesn’t give a red card, or even blow for a foul, is simple: he doesn’t see it. Both players are stretching their legs out in front of them and it’s these that make contact. Thomson is chasing the action from behind (Picture Two) and has to try and look beyond both players. It’s easy to assume he was unsighted. In all likelihood, all he would have seen was Kipre going into the challenge and then the ball popping out behind Dembele. He thought it was a clean tackle.

As Neil Lennon said on the BT Sport coverage, you didn’t think it was a bad challenge without the aid of replays. This included Chris Sutton, but it didn’t stop the ex-Celtic striker from going in two-footed on Thomson in the proverbial sense once he realised what happened.

Picture Two

Picture Two

In fairness to Sutton, he’d have been thinking the referee would’ve had a better vantage point than what was offered by the main stand camera angle. However, looking at the footage again, you’ll notice that none of the Celtic players in the area react in a manner you’d expect for such a tackle, indicating they didn’t see it either.

All in all, it’s much easier to understand the referee getting this one wrong than the penalty incident later in the match.

A short time after Kipre’s tackle, Dembele was booked for a lunge on Carl McHugh. Again, it could have been a red card as the attacker goes in high on his opponent and catches the Motherwell midfielder on the ankle. However, it wasn’t as bad as Kipre’s. Dembele’s foot is loosely hung when he goes in, while Kipre was more forceful going through the tackle.

Some have said there was intent as Dembele was frustrated at the previous incident, but that’s a little unfair. Looking at the tackle in isolation, you would just assume he’d overstretched when going for the ball, which is how it should be judged.

• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.

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