Luis Suárez was at it again, this time by scoring a winning goal with his arm to ensure Liverpool’s victory at Field Mill against fifth division Mansfield Town and securing his team’s place in the FA Cup fourth round.
Suárez put Mansfield Town in a 0-2 hole in the 59th minute of the match when he clearly scored the goal with his hand after Mansfield goalkeeper, Alan Marriott, deflected the initial shot. While we are no mind readers and, under the Laws of the Game the ball must be touched by the offending player in a deliberate manner, there can be very little doubt that Suarez intentionally handled the ball.
According to IFAB’s Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, the referee must take the following into consideration:
- the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
- the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
- the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
- touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement
- hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement
Furthermore, consider the following guidance from the United States Soccer Federation:
“‘Deliberate contact’ means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player’s arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball.”
In this instance, Suarez’s arm was not in a normal playing position. He raised it to play the ball. Suarez did not instincitevly moved his arm to protect himself. The ball was going to harmlessly pass him by. All of his actions point to intentional handling and the referee should have pulled the goal back. (See the video below)
Neither the Referee Andre Marriner, nor his assistant, noticed the handling and awarded the goal. As Suárez celebrated his goal, the chants of “cheat, cheat, cheat”’ could be heard across the stadium, clearly directed by the home crowd at the hated Uruguayan.
Although many at this point thought this Cinderella story was over, Mansfield overcame their shaky start and the string of bad luck and fought back. As Liverpool was pressured and pinned back deep into their defensive third, Mansfield finally got the break it deserved in the 79th minute, when Mansfield’s Green beat Liverpool’s Jones with a shot that made Field Mill erupt in deafening cheers. Unfortunately for the amateur Mansfield Town it proved to be too little too late and Liverpool desperately held on to the 2-1 lead.
These kinds of games and the ecstasy or agony they cause is what makes the FA Cup so exciting and irresistible to watch. Today, Mansfield Town clearly tasted the latter, while Liverpool held on to claim a trip to Oldham in the fourth round. Even though Mansfield did not prevail, the team fought bravely its much more accomplished rival and the players should held their heads high.
Can you say the same about Suarez? Is Suarez a cheater or just a ruthless attacker who simply fulfills his role and does what a great goal scorer does no matter the consequences or the Laws of the Game? Should the FA penalize Suarez for what he did?