It was 9pm on Monday night. I had my forehead leaning on the glass as the rain was pounding outside. I wasn’t in a great mood.
Had I made the wrong decision?
I was in the gym pondering the Sunday morning game.
91st minute of the match
A cross was whipped in to the penalty area by the winning team. They were up 2-1. A defender headed the ball back out with relative ease but under mild pressure (just the mental stress of being in physical contact distance with an opponent) from an attacker. The attacker lost balance right in front of the defender while attempting to challenge and was bent forwards trying to regain it.
I had my eyes poised on the pair as the ball was moving back out and a counter-attack mounting. It was instinctive that I was still looking. My gut told me something wasn’t finished here. Nothing about the challenge was innocuously near a foul or even an after-thought but still…
They were right on top of the penalty spot when the inexplicable happened. The defender looked down at the attacker who was stumbling to get back on his feet. He gave him a solid shove sending him to the ground. It wasn’t violent enough to kick-off a fight but I was astonished. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t add up in the story.
I had watched the pair of them during the play carefully in the build-up and of course, the aftermath.
Moment of truth
I blew the whistle.
I knew what I was doing here, how it was going to seem and how difficult it was going to be to sell it.
The defending players were astonished. They couldn’t fathom that play was going to be teleported from a near-halfway line counterattack to a penalty kick against them. The decision also meant a hammer-blow to their chances of making a comeback as the momentum seemed to favour that as a reality.
I understood. I empathised in full but I couldn’t accept what had just happened. What signal was I sending if I allowed the defender to incite something or if I was to consider that as part of acceptable play? I didn’t bother showing a caution here because I knew it was adding insult to injury and because I knew the selling this decision was going to be the main point of emphasis.
The defender had nothing to say about what had happened other than his disbelief that I had been bold enough to point to the spot in a rather unorthodox scenario.
Ref you could at least give an indirect free kick
In what felt like minutes later (it, no doubt, likely was), play was restarted. The ball was put in the back of the net and I knew immediately after that I was about to get a wave of glares. The entertainment in the game had gone. The attention had now shifted to the big decision I had made. What was portrayed here wasn’t the absence of the offence but the softness of the call given the time and context of the game. I explained, to little avail, post-match with the coaching staff but there was a grim shake-of-the-head, bite-the-lip attitude emanating back.
There was a technical part of the Law here that they hadn’t understood. Play is punished according to where the offence occurred. Unfortunately for the defender, the spot was 12 yards from his goal marked with a yellow dot.