Another round of fixtures and another controversial refereeing decision for everyone to get excited over.
On this occasion it occurred in the game between Dundee United and Aberdeen (watch it in the video below). On first viewing it seems the most ridiculous decision of this season, or any season, in fact. Aberdeen have what appears to be a very strong case for a penalty before the play continues and a shot is deflected into the back of the net. Instead of a goal or penalty being granted, Bobby Madden gives a free-kick to Dundee United.
To understand Madden’s logic, you have to break this move down. After Graeme Shinnie bursts into the penalty box, United defender Gavin Gunning goes to close him down closes down. Before the two come together, Gunning halts his movement and stands his ground. Just at that point, Shinnie makes a pass to the right and his momentum carries him into Gunning, who is stationary when the contact is made. Madden obviously believes Shinnie has initiated the contact, and therefore it would be considered simulation. Hence the free-kick for United.
Things are muddled further by Madden appearing to book a United defender, but this is not the case. If you look again, he’s talking to Blair Spittal (who didn’t have anything to do with the goal) when he flashes his card, which makes it look like he’s booking him, but then Madden turns and looks (and nods) at Shinnie while the card is still in the air.
Madden is wrong on one of two counts. It probably wasn’t a penalty, but it definitely wasn’t simulation either. Shinnie is too close to Gunning to do anything other than collide with the defender. Madden was probably fooled by Shinnie going over the defender’s leg, thinking he was trying to deceive him. As you can see in image one, Shinnie’s legs are together prior to him hitting the deck, which is a diver’s trick and something referees look for in these situations.
However, as you can see from the rest of Shinnie’s body, he’s contorting himself to avoid the contact since he, naturally, doesn’t want to run straight into Gunning at full speed. After all, it would hurt. He actually does his best to get out of the way and, ironically, that’s what ends up costing his side a goal.
Madden’s positioning could be another factor in him getting his decision wrong. Initially, he takes up the perfect spot from the throw-in. He is square on to the area where the ball is likely to go, an angle that allows the ref to see a shove in the back of the receiver, or the defender climbing over him.
The trouble starts when the ball looks like it’s going to break in Madden’s direction. It causes him to take a couple of steps back right at the moment Shinnie starts his burst into the penalty area. With bodies around Madden has to take a really wide angle to try to get a good view, and he ends up being quite far away when the contact is made (image two).
Verdict: A non-decision would have been the correct one and the goal should have stood.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPLStats on Twitter.
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