Two off-the-ball challenges that the referee did not see.
Two challenges that merited straight reds (if Scholes can get a red for swinging but pulling his punch in and not connecting, these two were stonewall reds).
Two challenges that need post-match video reviews to be punished – and if either player had scored, would have created serious problems for the FA.
Michael Ball vs Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester City vs Manchester United)
This was a ridiculous challenge. The two tangled, Ronaldo going to the ground under Ball’s tangle and as the football moved away from the duo (and so did the ref’s attention), Ball looked down at Ronaldo and stamped him in the chest.
Accidentally doesn’t even come into question.
Here’s a clip from the Manchester City vs Manchester United game that shows the incident.
Ball played a crucial part in the game, giving up a penalty at one end and winning another at the other end. Overall, the Manchester City player should have been sent off (and should get a post-match red card).
Michael Brown vs Xabi Alonso (Fulham vs Liverpool)
Unlike the Manchester United game, this is an incident that might have changed the course of the game.
In the first half (sorry, no video available for this yet), Fulham captain Michael Brown pulled Alonso’s shirt from behind while tangling for the ball but Alonso managed to pass it to another Liverpool player.
As he turned to remonstrate with Brown, Brown chose to headbutt Alonso, catching him on the nose and then was seen pointing at Alonso to indicate as if he’d gone down too easily. The ref missed it completely but when Alonso got up again he was bleeding from his nose.
There have been several incidents when players go down too easily after such incidents and are not actually hurt. Alonso got hit in the nose hard enough to start bleeding (unless you consider that he hit his nose on the ground deliberately). Had Fulham gone down to 10 men Liverpool may have had an advantage in the game. That didn’t happen, Fulham scored and now Liverpool have 1 point from their last 3 Premiership games.
However, to be fair to Fulham, Liverpool had a host of chances, including a ridiculous miss by Fowler, to close the game. As things stand, Arsenal could go ahead of Liverpool with a win against Chelsea on Sunday (a draw would keep Liverpool ahead on goal difference).
What will the FA do?
These two incidents are stonewall cases where having video replays on the sidelines (maybe with the 4th official or just having a 5th person watching key incidents (on and off the ball) would help solve problems. Stuff like this happens at least once a week where someone dives or tackles harshly and get away with it. The FA are scared that if they open the doors to video reviews every single decision will come into question. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There are ENOUGH clear-cut decisions that can be made using video reviews. These two were classic examples.
And the ref doesn’t have to interrupt the game and ask the 5th official – the guy should have the authority to intervene and tell the ref what’s going on through the headset, and after that it’s the ref’s call on what to do.
Goal-line technology and simple things like post-game reviews and punishments for obvious incidents and diving will greatly improve the game – right now these things are hurting the fans, and the last time I heard the fans were pretty important for the authorities.