Thoughts on Martin Atkinson’s Blunder and Goal Line Technology
The clash between Sunderland and Arsenal will be remembered for more reasons than one.
Mesut Ozil capped a scintillating debut with his first of many assists in Arsenal colors, Olivier Giroud’s first-timed finishes are becoming a stuff of legends, even a cool, calm and collected finisher like Theo Walcott can actually have a bad day at the office and Aaron Ramsey, my word, is maturing to one of the finest complete midfielders in the Premier League.
However, this article isn’t focused on all the nice stuff that happened from an Arsenal perspective but I want to share my unbiased thoughts of the moment of controversy that occurred in the 69th minute when the game was tensed up at 2-1 to Arsenal with the next goal being the all-important goal. A goal for Sunderland would have leveled the contest and brought them back into the game while a goal for Arsenal would have clinched the tie. The latter happened.
After receiving a through ball, American powerhouse, Jozy Altidore, got involved with a mini wrestling match with Arsenal’s captain of the day, Bacary Sagna, as both players tussled for the ball. With Altidore weighing more and probably more built than Sagna), he won the contest with the French defender and closed in on Wojciech Szczesny. As you would expect from an agile keeper like Szczesny, he rushed out of his line to close in the gap on Altidore but the American’s placed effort crept under Szczesny and rolled beyond the goal line but it was swept off by Carl Jenkinson (I think?).
Play actually stopped and we all thought that Atkinson was going to refer to the all-new goal line technology initiative that was recently adopted into the Premier League. Instead, Atkinson adjudged that it was a foul on Altidore outside the box and Craig Gardner blasted the resulting free kick over the bar. Shortly afterwards, the event was reconstructed on the big screen and the HawkEye goal line technology system showed that it was actually a goal, as the ball had crossed the line. To rub salt into the wound of Sunderland, Aaron Ramsey stepped up to score the third that put the game to bed.
I’m not taking anything away from Arsenal’s brilliant away performance but that goal should have stood. Had Theo Walcott converted at least two of the chances that were afforded to him in the first half, this wouldn’t have been a cause for debate because the game would have been over before the second half began. But at 2-1 down, scoring a goal that was wrongly disallowed would take its toll on the team’s morale, and in most cases, the game is always lost from there.
Permit me to take you down memory lane in a certain 2010 FIFA World Cup first knockout round fixture between Germany and England. At 2-1 down, Frank Lampard rifled in one of his trademark bullets that smashed the underside of Manuel Neuer’s bar, went beyond the goal line and crept back into play. However, the ref and his assistant didn’t see it and a crestfallen England went on to concede two more goals that sealed their elimination.
In the Premier League, decisions involving goal line errors have been been a menace and in most cases, the referee’s decision not to allow the goal often results in a backlash, as the manager, players and fans alike of the affected team leave no stones unturned in voicing their frustrations.
I can’t remember the season, but Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes blasted a long-range shot that brought out the worst in Manchester United’s Roy Carroll and after he fluffed at making a simple save, the ball went beyond the line but he managed to bring it back into play. If my memory serves me right, the game ended in a goalless draw.
To err is certainly human and referees are no cyborgs but the goal line technology system was meant to help them mitigate such occurrences from happening again in the Premier League.
In Arsenal’s first game of the season against Sunderland, Fabian Delph fired a shot in the edge of the area that hit the inside of the post before it crept away. The man with the whistle, Anthony Taylor, had a stinker all game long, but he still managed to call on the all-new HawkEye Decision System and he was duly notified that the ball didn’t cross the line.
Martin Atkinson could have resorted to this and Sunderland should have gotten their rightful equalizer. Even with the game tied at 2-2, I still believed that Arsenal would have had enough in the tank to get a third and kill off the game. Many Arsenal fans wouldn’t really care that this decision went their way citing Lady Luck and all that, but if it was Olivier Giroud that had a chance that went beyond the line and was not given, the vitriol and abuse at the ref would have been incessant.
In the long term, I hope referees would have to understand that the goal line technology system is meant to assist them in making those decisions and the quicker they embrace this new system, the better for the Premier League.
They can like to practice what has been preached.
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