This was a bad game for officials for two reasons: 1- This is just about the biggest game in the premiership given that one of these sides has won the league for 7 years now. 2 – There were numerous incorrect decisions which hugely affected the outcome of the game.
The first of these was the first goal, scored by Chris Smalling. It was clearly offside. Not by loads, but enough that it took one glance at a replay to be 100% sure. This would have taken a video ref a few seconds to decide. Interestingly, I can’t help but feel the linesman should have spotted this himself. When a free kick is being taken in this position, the linesman has plenty of time to position himself appropriately and watch carefully for players straying offside at the moment the free kick is taken. This is probably his primary job at such a time. He can be forgiven for failing to spot an outstretched leg of one player perhaps but Smalling’s whole body was roughly a yard offside. A really poor decision by the linesman.
The second goal, which was a beauty scored by Nani was also offside. This time he was stood practically right next to the linesman, several yards offside when a crossfield ball was driven to him. He collected the ball in an onside position and then skinned someone and smashed it in the top corner from 25 yards. That he gained no obvious advantage from being offside here is beside the point. Again he was clearly offside and one would expect a linesman to make this relatively simple call. Already the game had been ruined by bad decisions (at least for Chelsea).
The penalty that Man U received in the second half was controversial too. It wasn’t clear cut but the defender got a good piece of the ball. There is an argument that he made contact with the player first but in my opinion, and in this case it is merely that, this was a great challenge and not a penalty. This would have been a tough situation for the use of VT to improve as Man U would still have had a chance of scoring had the penalty not been given. If the ref had given it and an appeal system was in place, it would have been unfair for the penalty to not be given as Man U would have suffered from not being allowed to play on in a promising situation. The obvious conclusion would be that such situations, where it was not obvious whether a penalty should be given should be allowed to play out by the ref and then for himself or Man U to refer to a replay in the event of a goal not having been scored (by Man U) by the next time play was stopped. In the end Rooney slipped and the penalty did not result in a goal anyway but with the dubious decision going the way of Man U on top of the first two offside goals described above added to Chelsea’s frustration at the decisions they received on the day.
The fourth controversy I’d like to mention was the Ashley Cole tackle on Hernandez which resulted in a yellow card but no penalty. It certainly wasn’t a penalty as many claimed because the ball was comfortably out of play by the time Cole made contact with Hernandez. Alex Ferguson felt it should have been a red card and was not alone in taking this stance. This view is more persuasive given that Hernadez was injured by the tackle but it was clear to me that Cole was attempting to block a shot and would probably have done so had the shot been on target. For this reason, a yellow card is arguably fair. However, whenever a player is injured by a tackle in which the culprit has left the floor and ‘dived in’ it can usually be deemed dangerous play and legitimately deemed a red card offence. For me, the fact that there are arguments for both a yellow or red card means I am happy to accept the ref’s judgement on this and say no mistake was made here. A video replay could not have altered a decision like this in my opinion as this would have to require convincing evidence that the original decision was wrong.