An explanation has emerged as to why Arsenal’s William Saliba wasn’t red carded when he was penalised with a handball against Leeds United.
Every week we see a new reason to scrutinise referees and VAR for confusing decisions, with virtually no official reasoning given for what fans find difficult to understand.
The Leeds v Arsenal clash was no different, with the game brimming with controversy during the second half.
VAR was called into action twice during the second half on top of Leeds’ disallowed goal, with one penalty awarded and one overturned thanks to the help of the pitchside monitor.
Leeds’ penalty award came after initial appeals were waved away, when a ball through to Marc Roca was intercepted quite obviously by William Saliba’s outstretched arm.
After Illan Meslier gathered at the other end, VAR was consulted and Chris Kavanagh awarded a penalty to Leeds and a yellow card for the French defender, Saliba.
However, it looked fairly clear that without his handball, Roca would have been through in the box.
That’s not how ESPN’s Dale Johnson viewed things during his weekly run-down of VAR:
“Saliba had his arm away from his body and it was clear from the Arsenal defender’s reaction that he knew he had conceded a penalty. He was only booked for the handball, as goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was likely to get the ball ahead of Roca, rather than being sent off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.”
Saliba should have been sent off.
Not for this incident on it’s own, as a yellow card is probably the right decision, but for a clear shirt pull on Patrick Bamford as he ran through on goal not long after.
Had Bamford gone down, Saliba would have walked, no doubt about it.
It was one of many occasions where Leeds were far too honest compared to their opponents, who crowded the ref, bought time with ‘cramp’, and unsettled Bamford with his penalty.
If we want to start winning games, these are the sorts of ugly dark arts that we need to master, as plenty of other teams do.