It was clear with the swiftness of Michael Oliver’s actions that he felt Liverpool’s first penalty vs Leeds was an obvious one today, but the reactions from the commentators and the players suggested it was very soft.
Jamie Carragher actually said that he couldn’t believe the decision was given, while the reaction of the players was pretty telling as well.
There is no doubt that the ball did hit Robin Koch’s hand so it immediately it becomes a judgement call from the ref’s point of view, but former Premier League referee Keith Hackett has also suggested that he made the wrong call.
I had the chance to get his views after he had a chance to look at the decision again, and he’s given a clear indication as to why the wrong outcome was reached:
“The referee has one look and was quick to award a penalty kick. He was in a great position with a good viewing angle.”
“It is a subjective decision but in my opinion the outcome was incorrect. For me I believe that the defenders hand arm did not move towards the ball, it was accidental.
“The ball in fact struck the defenders knee before bouncing up and striking the underside of his arm. The defender was clearly attempting to retract his arm.”
“The offence of handball where a defender is concerned has to be deliberate with movement towards the ball and making the body larger than his silhouette”
“The law states that it is not an offence when the ball touches a players hand/arm directly from the players own head or body ( including the foot) in this situation.”
Of course it’s much easier to analyse things in more detail after the fact while Michael Oliver had to make the split second decision, however Hackett also points out that VAR did not advise Oliver to review the situation on the pitch side monitor.
You can read the full explanation of the handball law from IFAB here, but this is the most relevant point that applies to this specific situation:
The ball clearly strikes Koch before taking a sharp deflection onto his arm which is in a fairly normal position, so Oliver would’ve been able to see that if he got the nod from VAR to go and review the incident.
The handball laws have become more complicated as we now see explicitly different interpretations of the rule depending on where the ball is on the pitch, and it’s clear that Hackett doesn’t see this as a good thing at all:
“The law of course takes a different view if this had been an attacking player and a goal had resulted directly from the incident or had struck the hand/ arm and gave his attacking colleague a goal scoring opportunity then the attacker would be penalised.”
“This is a law that frankly treats defenders and attackers differently. It is in my opinion a poor law.”
The incident happened so early in the game that it’s impossible to tell if things would’ve ended differently if the correct decision was made, but it will be interesting to see how other refs react under similar circumstances in upcoming games.