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One more time: penalty kick + ejection = too much punishment

Feb 20, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT

Britain Soccer Champions League

I noticed today that FIFA is reminding us all through letters and proper media channels of the governing body’s ‘Handshake for Peace’ initiative.

That’s swell and all. I’m in 100 percent for peace, love, soccer and understanding.

But wouldn’t we all like to see a little less action on the fluffy-wuffy of PR campaigns and a little more action on the nitty-gritty of rules that actually affect the game? Yes, there is a FIFA process by which laws are made, revised, tweaked, etc.  But we all know that influence from high places can goose this stuff in necessary directions.

And once again, we have a “necessary direction” staring us in the face.

The laws have long been quite clear on fouls inside the penalty area that check all the so-called DOGSO boxes – “denial of goal scoring opportunity,” that is.

But does the punishment fit the crime? In theory, we might think that awarding a penalty kick and reducing a team to 10 men sounds like an outsize punishment. Then we get these real-world instances and the point is driven home with a vengeance.

A red card to Manchester City’s Martín Demichelis will go a long way to settling the Citizens’ encounter with Barcelona, now halfway into Champions League history. (Say, has anybody asked Manuel Pellegrini how he felt about that one?)

But the one that always seemed particularly harsh popped up a day later as Arsenal’s (admittedly rather slim) chances were undermined when ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny (and his naughty hand …. tsk, tsk) were sent packing in the first half.

This one just seems so simple. Once the man in the middle has pointed to the penalty spot, the “goal scoring opportunity” has been restored. And how.

I have no problem with the red card issued to the trailing defender outside the penalty area. In that case, the defender’s cynical calculation is clear: a foul here may be worth the risk considering a much higher chance of seeing a goal scored once the penalty area is breached. FIFA should never undo that one.

But inside the 18? And especially as it relates to goalkeepers?

Make the game better, FIFA. Then those handshakes will be all that much more meaningful.

  1. jimsakeeper1 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    I disagree. The harshness of the consequences is designed to make it so bad that no player commits the DOGSO foul. The idea is that fans want to see goals and to foul someone in a goal scoring position is therefore strongly discouraged.

    Now realistically only half the fans want to see a given goal; those supporting the defending team want to see a stop, fans of the attacking team want to see a goal. But overall, so fans want to see goals or cynical fouls?

    • tridecagon - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      There’s a difference between a cynical foul and a legitimate, trying-to-make-a-play foul. When a keeper stretches out as the opponent fakes a shot, and then the striker taps the ball past the keeper, runs through his arms and goes to ground – honestly, if it’s early in the game, the PK and the removal of the keeper is even more valuable to the attacking team than a simple goal. It’s too much.

    • lyleoross - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:55 PM

      You are mechanically correct, but not situationally IMO. A player who has been beaten, and then fouls to prevent a goal, is playing cynically. He deserves the ultimate penalty. A goalie has not been beaten, he is the last line of defense and it’s his job to make a best effort on stopping that shot. In the case where the goalie is “playing the ball” to the best of his ability and commits a foul, it should be a penalty kick. A goalie who cynically throws his body across the path of the ball and player and takes out the player deserves a red. The two situations are dramatically different. In the first, you’ve developed a dramatic stand off that enhances the game. In the second you are punishing a player who was playing in a dangerous fashion.

      Robben went down like he was shot. He knew the rule, and he played it to his advantage. IMO, the wrong player was punished.

  2. chadmoon1 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Think of what the ramifications to that Law (soccer has no “rules”) would be Steve. A forward breaks free with the ball and dribbles towards goal. If a defender makes a tackle and brings him down, especially from the side or the back, and it would be a send off. But….if he waits until the player gets into the penalty area, he can then rugby tackle the forward from any direction with impunity. Is that what you’re after? Of course not. But that is what the referee would be left with.

    Think about it. That’s why we have the harshest penalties for the harshest crimes, both in footy and in life.

  3. chunkala - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Sorry, since goals at a a miimum in this sport, you have to make sure that no goal scoring opportunities are taken away. Harsh, yes, but absolutely necessary. Defender – don’t foul, goalie – stay in the “crease” and try to stop the shot instead of barreling over the striker.
    This sport already eliminated the golden goal in favor of a penalty kick shootout, in the NFL the equivalent would be a field goal kicking contest to determine the Super Bowl winner. No thanks. Goals and more goals, please.

    • danielofthedale - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:42 PM

      The Golden Goal and PK Shootout could have both happened. Golden Goal was just sudden death over time, but of the game was stilled tied after overtime the game would go to a Shootout.

    • nogoodusernames - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      “goalie – stay in the “crease” and try to stop the shot instead of barreling over the striker.”

      Uh, I agree that the keeper shouldn’t just take out a striker, but he definitely shouldn’t “stay in the crease” that’s just dumb, as you have to come out, to both cut down the angle, and to put pressure on the shooter, if you stay back, you’re asking him to take his time and pick a spot.

      But there’s a right way and a wrong way to come out. If the keeper comes off his line and is unfortunate enough to take the shooter out while making a legitimate attempt at the ball, just a penalty, but if the keeper reaches a hand or leg out to take down the shooter after the shooter managed to dribble the ball beyond the keeper – that should absolutely be a red card.

  4. stirged - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    Just think of Suarez’s bat down in the 2010 World Cup. It took it from a 99% chance of goal to the ~65-70% of a PK (in that case Ghana missed the PK). That is enough of a differential in fairness that ejecting Suarez was warranted. If you make ejection not happen, then all players would be taught to act as keepers in the box on sure goals, just to cause that occasional missed PK.

    I can understand the argument that some fouls in the box are legit attempts at the ball and not Suarez style DOGSO, but there is already a tool to deal with that, its called referee discretion. I know it’s not applied evenly or consistently ever, but that is much better than watching PK’s all day.

    • Jenna - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      I agree. Players will cheat left and right if they know they have a chance to avoid any fallout with a PK. Don’t forget that this system was implemented exactly because of the professional fouls in the box “ruining the game”. People who advocate for this aren’t thinking it through.

      • tridecagon - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:27 AM

        People who advocate for this are sick and tired of forwards flopping in the box and getting away with it. The reward for selling a simulated foul is too high, and the punishment too light. It is possible for a defender (or especially goalkeeper) to foul as the last man back, with no intent whatsoever beyond making a legitimate attempt at the ball. They don’t deserve to be thrown out of the game for that.

    • tridecagon - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      But that’s exactly the problem. The way the rules are written, there is not referee discretion on this point – Any foul with DOGSO = Red Card, period. Any foul in the box = PK, period. The referee is not granted the latitude to say “well that seemed like too harsh a penalty, so I didn’t give the red.” He should be, explicitly.

  5. danielofthedale - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    People talking about how goals make the game better thus the red card and Pk is the way to go are a bit wrong. That game when from an end to end cracker of a game to a very dull game where one team just gave up any hope of attacking. It was an awfully dull second half.

    Now a possible solution: give the attacking team the option of a PK or a sending off. I know it sounds crazy but it might work.

  6. lunasceiling - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Both of those red cards were the correct calls (although Robben certainly made a meal of it), but they basically ruined not just both games, but both ties. Not sure what the solution is, though…

  7. lyleoross - Feb 21, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Take the time to go watch the Youtube slow motion of this play and consider a couple of things. First, Robben played a ball at face height with his foot. If the goalie comes in one foot to the right, Robben cleans his clock. Second, look where the goalie’s eyes are, he’s playing the ball, not Robben, the contact in essence is accidental (not excusable). A savvy goalie who is playing situationally, instead of doing his job, takes the hit, and sends Robben to the bench. Third, Robben tracks the ball as he comes around, fully stable after the contact, and then he collapses.

    You can’t criticize the ref, the play is fast and hard to call, but the outcome of the game was determined by this play and the structure of the rules. You go from a pretty even up game to a wipe out. No matter how I slice it, the outcome was wrong IMO.

    • Jenna - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      Just because you don’t LIKE the outcome doesn’t make it wrong.

      • lyleoross - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        It does if Robben pulled a flop, which the slow motion supports. That’s a Yellow or a Red to Robben depending on the referee.

        There is a rule 12 distinction called “playing in a dangerous fashion.” Coming in, boot at face height on a goalie fits that distinction for me, but may not for other referees

      • lyleoross - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        BTW – up above someone pointed out that the red was deserved, and in many ways it was. The goalie contacted Robben. The point being made is that the limitations in the rule structure are such that the call ignored both dangerous play and a flop on the part of Robben. That makes the call seem somewhat harsh and possibly open to modification. I tend to agree with the point being made, given what occurred here.

      • Jenna - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        The “flop” has no impact. At all. The player’s reaction isn’t taken into account by the law, nor is intent. If it’s denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity it’s red, period. That’s the Law. (Also, there was plenty of room when Robben pulled the ball down with his foot, which is why no card was shown.) Again, you don’t like it, but the ref has to apply the Law.

  8. renhoekk2 - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    I can’t believe there are fans who agree with the current system. Removed from current match, a penalty kick, and banned from next game. It’s such overkill for a foul it’s laughable. Yet some are OK with it. It’s would be the equivalent of the NFL tossing a DB from a game for pass interference, banning him from the next game, and giving the other team a play where a RB goes 1 on 1 with a defensive player from the 5 yard line. That’s how ridiculous the current system is. I know the NFL has more scoring than European football but overkill is still overkill.

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