You can see why Craig Levein felt Hearts deserved a penalty for this incident. Some referees would probably give it. Andy Rose has his right arm sticking out at a 90 degree angle and that’s what the ball strikes. You could interpret this as a foul for his arm being in an unnatural position.
However, I don’t believe this was a penalty. In my opinion, what Rose was doing was fairly natural. He and Steven Naismith were jostling for position, with the Motherwell player putting his hand out to try and stay touch-tight with the attacker (Image One). When the Hearts player goes for the ball, Rose becomes off-balance and his arm remains in the air as a result. Naismith then flicks the ball onto his opponent’s arm with his head.
The distance between the two players is an aspect often mistaken for relevance in handball situations, but in this instance it does play a part because Rose isn’t deliberately making himself a bigger target. This applies more to situations where you have some chance to anticipate the ball (for example, trying to block a shot) rather than a case such as this where the movement of the ball is entirely unpredictable. Referee Andrew Dallas got this one right, as he did with the other two big moments in the game.
The first was Motherwell’s disallowed goal. When I saw it live, I thought it was a good goal and was surprised by the foul being given. However, the replay showed that the referee was correct, so you have to credit him for a good decision. The rules state that “a goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball while the ball is between his hands or between his hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body)”. Even though he was pulling it in towards his body when Chris Cadden flicked it into the goal, hence why there was little friction, McLaughlin still had general control over it.
Billy Dodds on the BBC commentary kept going on about McLaughlin’s movement being a “reaction”. First of all, he had the ball for about a second before Cadden kicked it - in fact, the Motherwell midfielder even has time to swipe and miss with his left foot (Image Two) before going with the right. Secondly, and more importantly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a reaction or not, he still had control over it.
Then there was the penalty granted to Hearts. The angle from behind the players suggested there could have been a little touch by Cedric Kipre on the ball as he challenged Steven Naismith. Although, it’s inconclusive whether this is actually the case, with other angles showing no touch. Also, it doesn’t really matter. He comes flying across clumsily and wipes out Naismith. A touch on the ball is almost incidental to that.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.