Pro-qualified and experienced referee Simon Fear examines the decisions from the 1st leg.
Real Madrid –v- Barcelona – Super Cup 2011.
Referee - Fernando Teixeira Vitienes
Venue - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid.
Attendance – 79800.
This was a match which carried significant baggage after last season’s Champions League semi-final. The home crowd were vociferous and the atmosphere was tense all of which adds pressure on the referee. It was clear that Real Madrid set out to pressure Barcelona and appeared to engage in an aggressive, intimidatory manner. Real Madrid routinely committed niggly fouls with both Khedira and Alonso especially guilty in the early exchanges. What also stood out was the physical difference between the two sides, Real Madrid were a side full of athletic, powerful and aggressive players in comparison to their opponents who were significantly smaller and less physically comparable. Barcelona players also routinely exaggerate the extent of contact and were guilty of excessive simulation following almost every contact, placing more pressure on the referee.
Real Madrid were guilty of “Team Fouling” this is a subject that has been identified more recently by referee’s and appears to be a pre-ordained act by managers or coaches who send their teams out to disrupt and stop opponents from playing. In its simplest terms is when teams plan strategic fouling where players take it in turns to foul and then highlight to the referee that it is their ‘first offence’. Often they foul the most skilful opponent to take him out of the game or commit tactical fouls high up the pitch to prevent their opponents building momentum or tempo. Mr Vitienes struggled to control the frequent fouling as most were not serious enough to warrant a caution, thus he was limited to issuing stern warnings.
In the 25 minute the game flared up for the first time, Khedira attempted to challenge Albiol for a high ball. Ozil was already challenging the Barcelona defender when Khedira made a head high lunge, missing the ball and striking Albiol in the face.
Under Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct - A player is sent off if he commits an act of “Serious foul play”. A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play. A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and/or endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.
In the circumstances, as the picture shows, Mr Vitienes failed in his obligation to protect Albiol and Khedira should have been shown a red card. The last challenge that was this dangerous was Nigel De Jong on Xabi Alonso in the World Cup Final that Howard Webb admits he got horribly wrong in failing to dismiss the Dutchman.
In the 31 minute Pepe hit a long ball forward, the ball bounced awkwardly and hit arm of Albiol who was inside his own penalty area. Real Madrid appealed for a penalty however Mr Vitienes correctly adjudged that there was no intent and simply allowed play to continue.
Law 12 is quite specific that ‘A penalty is awarded if a player deliberately handles the ball’. Mr Vitienes correctly assessed that the ball had skipped up of the pitch and whilst it clearly struck the right arm of Albiol there was no intention from the Barcelona player to handle the ball. There are many wrongly held perceptions about hand ball, players, commentators and fans refer to ‘ball to hand’ and ‘Whether a player gains control of the ball’ these are immaterial and have no bearing upon the referees decision. The sole guide is whether or not the handball was intentional.
FIFA provide guidance to assist referees who are told that when considering intent/deliberateness they should take into consider (1) The deliberate movement of the hand towards the ball (2) The distance between the opponent and the ball, as this affects the amount of time the player has to remove his arm, and (3) The position of the hand/arm (Is it in a natural position or is it extended away from the body) however this does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement.
In the 32 minute Khedira was finally cautioned for Unsporting Behaviour when Real Madrid lost possession on the edge of the Barcelona penalty area. Thiago collected the ball and turned away from Khedira, the German then deliberately and cynically pulled Thiago to the ground and it was a simple, if belated decision for Mr Vitienes to issue a yellow card as under Law 12 – A player is cautioned if he ‘commits a foul for the tactical purpose of interfering with or breaking up a promising attack’ or ‘ holds an opponent for the tactical purpose of pulling the opponent away from the ball or preventing the opponent from getting to the ball’, either way Khedira was rightly booked.
In the 41 minute Alexis Sanchez was fortunate to escape a caution when he was deliberately late on Xabi Alonso as the Spaniard played a long pass. Sanchez knew he was not going to challenge for the ball yet continued with his momentum and caught Alonso late. This should have led to Sanchez being cautioned for Unsporting Behaviour.
At the start of the 2nd half Marcelo was guilty of a cynical trip/kick on Lionel Messi. The incident occurred behind play, the ball has been passed forward yet Marcelo quite deliberately struck out at Messi. This was a difficult decision for Mr Vitienes as he had correctly followed play, his assistant was also correctly positioned on the last defender, therefore neither had a clear view of the incident. Upon viewing the incident Marcelo appears guilty of a deliberate trip, for which he should have been cautioned as it was such a cynical act, rather than dismissed for violent conduct if it had been deemed an intentional kick.
In the 55 minute Sanchez received a yellow card for hand ball when he blocked a cross from Ronaldo, the play was close to the side line, Sanchez was about 2 yards from Ronaldo who struck the cross with some force. Sanchez did not appear to extend his arms, make himself bigger or obviously make a direct move to handle the ball. Sanchez leaned to his left, but kept his arm by his side and whilst the referee may have judged the hand ball deliberate, it appeared a harsh yellow card unless Mr Vitienes decided the caution was for Sanchez persistently infringing the Laws of the Game.
The game became tetchier in the 56 minute when Pepe resumed his running battle with Dani Alves. Alves was in the process of clearing the ball when Pepe followed through with his challenge and caught Alves. The challenge was late, made with excessive force and clearly reckless. Pepe should have been cautioned under Law 12 for Unsporting Behaviour . Mr Vitienes awarded the freekick and dealt with the inevitable melee that followed, however in my opinion, as Alves exaggerated the extent of contact (and his continual theatrics to any contact he receives)this effected the response from Mr Vitienes.
In the 77 minute Xabi Alonso was correctly cautioned for a late tackle from behind on Messi. The tackle alone warranted a caution for Unsporting Behaviour, or given the number of fouls he committed throughout the game he warranted a caution for persistently infringing the laws of the game, often referred to as totting up.
As the game entered the final throws, there were two penalty appeals, one for each side, and both dismissed. In the 82 minute a Madrid player crossed a ball into the Barcelona penalty area, Valdes fumbled the ball under little pressure from Ronaldo, the Portuguese player reacted quickly to collect the loose ball where upon Ronaldo was deliberately tripped by Valdes. As the picture shows, Valdes extends his right arm and intentionally trips Ronaldo and a penalty should have been awarded. For Mr Vitienes this was an impossible decision to give. He needed help from his assistant and without having a clear view himself he could not award the penalty as he could not be 100% certain.
The second appeal was in the 86 minute when Marcelo challenged Pedro as the Spanaird bore down on goal. As the picture shows Marcelo is in a poor position and makes a risky challenge. His attempt to play the ball should have been penalised for a penalty because despite possibly making contact with the ball, Marcelo fouls Pedro. A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player, in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force, trips or tackles an opponent. Regardless of Marcelo’s intent to play the ball, he cannot do so without tripping Pedro and Mr Vitienes should have awarded a penalty, and cautioned Marcelo.
In the 91 minute Fábio Coentrão was correctly cautioned for dissent when he deliberately kicked the ball away after Mr Vitienes had awarded Barcelona a free kick and two minutes later Dani Alves was rightly cautioned for a deliberate trip on Ozil who looked to launch a quick break.