We recently had an interesting discussion on our forum about one particular incident that occurred in a match between Real Madrid v. Ludogorets Razgrad. As can be viewed in the video below, in the 19th minute of the game, Ludogorets’ player, who was standing on the goal line between the posts, illegally prevented the ball from going into the goal by intentionally deflecting it with his arm. The deflected ball, however, bounced and luckily landed right in front of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale who volleyed into the goal. Bale’s celebration was cut short, however, when he realized that the referee blew the whistle and signaled for the penalty kick instead. Following his decision to award the penalty kick, the referee dismissed the offending player for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. The resulting penalty kick was – fortunately for the referee – converted into Real Madrid’s goal.
In this blog, taking this incident as an example, we wanted to discuss a somewhat different DOGSO related issue. Namely, assume that the referee played advantage and Bale scored his goal. This, of course, would have been a much preferred course of action and completely in line with, if not demanded by, the Laws of the Game which clearly state that the referee should “allow play to continue when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from such an advantage and penalize the original offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time.” Thus, assuming that the referee applied the advantage and Bale scored the goal, what decision should the referee make with respect to the Ludogorets’ player who handled the ball? Should the player be dismissed for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity? Or, should he be cautioned since Bale ultimately scored the goal anyway?
Quickly - answer NOW (and no skipping to the end of this blog) and see below if your decision is consistent with our analysis.
As always, we begin with the Laws of the Game;
Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct states that “[a] player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he … denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)” or “to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.”
IFAB’s interpretations further clarify that “[a] player is sent off, however, if he prevents a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball. This punishment arises not from the act of the player deliberately handling the ball but from the unacceptable and unfair intervention that prevented a goal being scored.”
Having reviewed these provisions, we are surely clear about the kind of punishment that is required for this offense (red card) but they do not necessarily answer our question of whether the denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity occurred here. After all, Bale did score after the advantage was applied.
Not discouraged, we went back to the Laws of the Game and IFAB’s interpretations and found this tidbit of helpful information: According to IFAB’s interpretation, “[i]f the referee applies advantage during an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and a goal is scored directly, despite the opponent’s handling the ball or fouling an opponent, the player cannot be sent off but he may still be cautioned.” And, indeed, the answer to our question is in this passage.
Now, with these interpretation in mind, let’s analyze the incident from the Real Madrid's game and see what the correct decision should have been. There is no denying that, but for the Ludogorets’ defender illegally deflecting the ball with his arm, the ball would have crossed the goal line, resulting in Real Madrid’s first goal of the game. It is also beyond dispute that, following the deflection of the ball with his arm, the ball had no chance of ever crossing the goal line since, when it bounced off the defender's arm, it traveled in the opposite direction from the goal. It is here, at this very moment, that Ludogorets’ defender’s fate was decided.
IFAB’s interpretation of the Laws of the Game makes it clear that, after the referee applies advantage, no denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity occurs if “a goal is scored directly, despite the opponent’s handling the ball.” Directly here means without anyone intervening after the handling offense was committed. This meaning of “directly” is consistent with how the Laws of the Game define the term direct. For example, a goal can be scored directly (without any intervening touch by another player) from a direct free kick. Conversly, a goal cannot be awarded if the ball was kicked directly (without any intervening touch by another player) into a goal from an indirect free kick.
In our example, the goal was not scored directly after the defender’s handling offense was committed. Simply put, it was Bale’s shot – an intervening act – that resulted in a goal being scored. In other words, the defender successfully prevented the goal. His only misfortune, not relevant under the Laws of the Game, was that the ball landed right in front of Bale who rifled it into the net. Consequently, based on our analysis of the Laws of the Game, the referee should have: (i) applied the advantage, (ii) let Bale’s goal stand and (iii) shown a red card to Ludogorets’ defender for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
Let us know what your decision was when you first read the question and whether it was consistent with our analysis. Similarly, let us know if you disagree with this analysis and, if so, why?
UPDATE: We posted an important update to this blog. You can read it here.