Referees’ chief admits mistake over Martin Odegaard handball against Liverpool
Martin Odegaard was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Liverpool in December
Referees’ chief Howard Webb says Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal for a Martin Odegaard handball.
Mohamed Salah’s flick-on hit Odegaard’s hand in the penalty area in the first half at Anfield on 23 December.
Referee Chris Kavanagh did not award the hosts a penalty and the video assistant referee (VAR) reviewed the incident and confirmed the decision.
“The game expects a penalty in this situation. I would agree,” said Webb.
When the incident happened, Kavanagh said: “No, his hand’s on the floor. His hand’s on the floor.”
The incident is then checked and VAR David Coote says the ball “clearly hits his arm”, then after looking at another angle says: “So he is falling down, he’s moving his arms in towards him, so it’s check complete for me.” The assistant VAR Lee Betts then agrees.
Speaking on Match Officials Mic’d Up, a Premier League Productions programme which analyses VAR decisions from previous game weeks, Webb says: “The referee on the field recognised that Odegaard had slipped and saw his arm go towards the ground.
“This is not just Odegaard accidentally falling on to the ball. He does slip, his arm does go out, but he actually pulls his arm back in towards his body, which is when the ball makes contact with the arm.
“The VAR looked at that aspect. He felt it was a case of Odegaard trying to make himself actually smaller by bringing the arm back towards the body. That is the element that’s important here.
“Whether it’s instinctive or deliberate, he gets a huge advantage by bringing the arm back towards the ball. All the feedback we got afterwards was very clear.
“This is one that didn’t reach the right outcome on that basis.”
It is not the first time Webb, the chief refereeing officer for officials’ body PGMOL, has admitted an officiating mistake this season.
Manchester United keeper Andre Onana escaped any punishment despite punching Wolves striker Sasa Kalajzdic on the opening weekend of the season before Simon Hooper did not allow Manchester City a clear advantage last month against Tottenham.
Another controversial decision came when VAR ruled out a Luis Diaz goal for Liverpool against Spurs – an incident that sparked weeks of debate.
Burnley 1-1 Luton Town – Carlton Morris’ late equaliser
With Burnley on the brink of a crucial 1-0 win in a game of huge significance at the bottom of the table, Luton’s controversial 92nd-minute equaliser – a header by substitute Carlton Morris – was allowed to stand.
There was a lengthy VAR check after Elijah Adebayo appeared to impede keeper James Trafford as Morris scored.
Burnley boss Vincent Kompany called it “ridiculous” and “bizarre”, while the club’s co-owner said it was “truly disgraceful”.
Webb, however, said it was not a “clear” error.
“Clearly [this was] a really important moment at the end of this big Premier League game,” said Webb. “The on-field decision is always important for us when we’re thinking about how we utilise the addition of VAR. In this situation, the on-field officials felt there was no foul. They saw two players coming together.
“The AVAR actually felt it might be [a foul]. You could hear he’s talking a little bit more about the attacker’s movement in the situation. You see the goalkeeper Trafford coming out.
“You see Adebayo moving. He’s always moving in that direction. At the very end of the piece, there’s a little movement sort of like towards the goalkeeper. Some people see this as normal football contact.
“I can understand why Burnley would expect a free-kick in this situation. But I’ve also spoken to a whole host of people who don’t see it that way at all, who see it as that normal football contact that the officials on the field saw at that moment.
“Again, the split between the VAR and AVAR suggests it’s not something very clear, and VAR was brought in to rectify very clear situations.
“And this was one, when you look at that fallout, that feedback that people have given us on this one, including many professional footballers, that it was a good goal. Then the VAR in the end in that context came out in the right place by recognizing that this was one that was split opinion.”
Everton 1-3 Manchester City – Amadou Onana handball
Everton midfielder Amadou Onana conceded a penalty during Everton’s 3-1 defeat by Manchester City at Goodison Park when he handled the ball from a Nathan Ake shot.
Referee John Brooks awarded a penalty after receiving confirmation from his assistant before VAR upheld the decision.
Webb said: “I think we have got this one right on this occasion. The officials work together, the referee and the assistant referee, to come to the on-field decision of handball.
“They see Onana’s hand up by his head and in that position, it blocks a shot towards goal. I don’t for a minute think that he meant to do that, but you don’t have to commit humble offense because the laws talk about taking a risk by putting your hand in that position.
“He’s reaching out with his foot to try to block the shot. He doesn’t do that, but his arm is up there and it blocks the shot. There’s lots of controversy if we don’t give this.”
Newcastle 3-0 Fulham – Raul Jimenez’s red card
Fulham forward Raul Jimenez was sent off in their defeat at Newcastle after 22 minutes following a dangerous challenge as he jumped into Sean Longstaff and caught the midfielder in the face.
On-pitch referee Sam Barrott originally showed Jimenez a yellow card before VAR Michael Salisbury told Barrott to review the Mexican’s challenge, which was then upgraded to a red card.
Webb said: “There’s a recklessness about the action because there was a potential for danger to the opponent.
“And then there’s excessive force and endangering the safety of the opponent, as we see in this case, whereby the only option is a red.”
Brighton 4-2 Tottenham – Dejan Kulusevski fouls Danny Welbeck in the area
Tottenham winger Dejan Kulusevski conceded a penalty for a pull on Danny Welbeck’s shirt during Brighton’s victory at Amex Stadium.
Referee Jarred Gillett does not initially award the penalty but is asked to review the incident by VAR. After the review, Gillet awards a penalty, which is converted by Joao Pedro, and Kulusevski is booked.
Webb said: “You can see Kulusevski pulls Welbeck back for some time, even in full speed. Welbeck can’t get to the ball. There’s lots I like about this clip. The fact that they are pretty decisive. They stop the game as soon as they recognise there’s a need to have this reviewed.
“It’s a clear situation. Doesn’t create debate when you look at that image. It’s absolutely a penalty – and we get to the right decision.”