Michael Oliver had to stand up and make a decision in an inevitable heated north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham. With the game locked at 1-1 and time running down, Arsenal had an appeal for a penalty, and got it.
Alexandre Lacazette was put through on goal and it looked fairly obvious that he was going to score, the crowd if there was one were about to go wild, instead that was confined to living rooms up and down the country. Lacazette was about to score the winner, his 10th of the season, except he made an error. Instead of lashing the ball past Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, he instead swung at the ball and missed it. Chance over, not quite. After the miss kick Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez clambered into Lacazette and of course the Arsenal striker went to ground. A penalty was awarded.
Sanchez was booked, Tottenham protested, Jose Mourinho on the touchline had to watch the replay on an Ipad, all were in agreement, no penalty. Of course anyone associated with Tottenham will go down the no penalty route, but plenty of seasoned pundits felt the same. Andy Gray, Richard Keys and Ruud Gullit could not believe that a penalty had been given.
Let’s rewind a bit and try to figure out why referee Michael Oliver gave the penalty. On first glance at full speed and from where he was it did look like a penalty. However fair is fair and VAR flagged it up for Oliver to have a few looks on the monitor but Oliver wasn’t changing his mind. One could believe that Oliver came to his decision because he saw a foul, even after the incident. The problem with that is that if one says there was contact between Sanchez and Lacazette then it was minimal and the contact would have affected Lacazette’s right leg- so why was the Arsenal forward clutching his left leg when he went down?
If anything Lacazette played on the contact to earn a penalty to spare his blushes for the miss kick. A kick that has been forgotten about now. Imagine he had made that miss kick and Sanchez was 5 yards behind, it would be on a blooper reel for years. Instead he was able to sweep that incident under the carpet and score from the penalty spot.
Lacazette ended the game as the hero but he should have been booked for feigning injury on his leg. Everyone of course has different opinions of the incident, but it is sad to see such incidents that can split opinions either way in such big games.
Oliver believes he was right, maybe he won’t in a years’ time. But the very big games should be decided on quality not petty moments like this.
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