After a spirited and full of drama game, Borussia Dortmund defeated Malaga 3:2 in Westfalenstadion on Wednesday April 9 2013, securing its spot in Champions League seminal. Borussia Dortmund was favored to prevail in this clash but Malaga did not go down quietly. In fact, Malaga broke the impasse first when Sanchez Joaquin scored the first goal in 25th minute of the game. Borussia’s Robert Lewandowski, however, brought the teams on level terms just before the half-time in the 40 minute of the game. In the 82nd minute of the game, Malaga struck again and recorded its second goal on Pereira Eliseu’s easy tap-in and, with less than eight minutes remaining in the regulation time, a huge upset appeared to be in the making. Just when it all looked like Dortmund was out of the Champions League (at this point the German team needed to score two more goals), Marco Reus breathed some glimmers of hope to the Dortmund’s side when he scored and brought the two sides level once more in the 91st minute of the game. And then the unbelievable happened! With seconds remaining in the game, Augusto Felipe Santana pounced on a loose ball in Malaga’s penalty area, sending Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League semifinals.
Unfortunately, the game was also notable for three offside errors that led to two goals. The first error occurred in the 82nd minute of the game when Malaga’s Pereira Eliseu scored Malaga’s second goal. As the still shot clearly shows (see below), Pereira was in an offside position when the ball was passed to him but, despite his good positioning, the assistant referee did not raise his flag and allowed the goal to stand.
In the 93rd minute of the game, as Borussia’s Ilkay Gündogan crossed the ball into Malaga’s penalty area, no less than four Borussia players were in offside positions (see below OFFSIDE #1). However, the assistant referee let the play continue. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, Borussia’s Reus pounced on the ball and drove a low shot across the goal-kick area. While the shot was successfully blocked, Malaga’s defenders failed to clear the ball. The first one to get to the loose ball was Borussia’s Julian Schieber who toe-poked it toward his teammate Augusto Felipe Santana. Santana tapped it inside Malaga’s goal. When the ball was played by Dortmund’s Schieber, his teammate Santana was in an offside position. The footage below shows the moment when the pass was made (see below OFFSIDE #2). It demonstrates that Santana was closer to the goal-line than the second-last defender (in this case the goalkeeper).
Some argued that the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand was in-line with Santana and thus kept him in an onside position. Our analysis shows that there is no support in the Laws of the Game or the USSF Advice to Referees for the argument that the “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” is based upon a position of a player’s hand.
Law 11 of the Laws of the Game states that “a player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.” However, “a player is not in an offside position if … he is level with the second-last opponent.” Importantly too, the IFAB’s Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees explained that in the context of Law 11, “‘nearer to his opponents’ goal line’ means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.” Crucially, and we also believe dispositive to the situation at hand, IFAB explicitly stated that “the arms are not included in this deﬁnition.” (Emphasis added.)
The United States Soccer Federation reiterated this definition in its Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game and stated “no part of the attacking player other than the arms may be nearer the opponents’ goal line than the torso, head or legs of the second-last defender. It is not necessary to ‘see daylight’ between them for one to be considered nearer than the other.” (Emphasis added.)
Our review of the Laws of the Game and the situation here shows that Santana was nearer the goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent (goalkeeper). Therefore, the assistant referee should have raised his flag. As the United States Soccer Federation stated, “assistant referees must be properly positioned, focused, and attentive at all times so as to fulfill their obligation to assist the referee with this critical [offside] decision.” Unfortunately, in this game, the assistant referee failed in his duties.
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