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.
It’s much easier to understand the referee getting this one wrong than the penalty incident later in the match.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.