Referee Lee Mason “lost focus” for Lewis Dunk’s disallowed goal against West Brom, Dermot Gallagher said on the latest Ref Watch, with Callum Hudson-Odoi’s handball against Manchester United also analysed.
INCIDENT: Brighton were awarded a free-kick, which was scored directly by Lewis Dunk. Referee Lee Mason blew his whistle as the ball was heading goalwards, much to the upset of Brighton players. The goal was ruled out, then given before VAR intervened and the goal was ruled out again. Dunk eventually retook the free-kick, which was saved by West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s a horrendous decision,” Dunk told Sky Sports. “I said to the ref ‘can I take it?’, he blew his whistle, and I took it.
“Just because there was so much pressure from the bench. Why doesn’t he come and speak to the press like me? Never, they hide behind their bubble.
“I don’t think he knew what he was doing. He gave the goal, why did he give it? I don’t know why VAR was getting involved, he said ‘goal’… you can look on the video if you want.
“Had he lost control of the game? Yeah, he did. Fact.”
DERMOT’S VERDICT: Correct decision by the rules of the game.
DERMOT SAYS: “The easy answer is he’s just lost focus. When you give a free-kick and it’s a ceremonial free-kick like that, because Brighton originally wanted the wall back 10 yards, he’s got the ball placed, he’s got the wall back and then he’s then got to get into a position.
“For whatever reason, he is dragged back into the players, Dunk sees Johnstone on the post and thinks ‘I can go quick here’. He asks the referee if he can go, I think the referee has lost a little bit of focus and says yes. He’s not in the right position for the free-kick himself because he’s just stepping back, Dunk shoots and I think as soon as he shoots, I think Lee thinks ‘I shouldn’t have had this free kick taken’, blows his whistle again to stop it but the consequence is the ball goes in the net.
“I say a consequence because if that ball had gone wide, we wouldn’t be discussing this now. But it did go in the net and VAR can look at it because the ball has crossed the line. VAR quite rightly said that the whistle had gone for a second time before the ball was in the net so technically, it can’t be a goal.
“What I would like to point out as well, because there has been a lot of slightly inaccurate reporting of this, is that VAR played no part in the process apart from deciding the second whistle had done. VAR can’t have any input on a restart, it’s solely an on-field decision.
“All Lee Mason did was lose focus and you see how difficult it can be then because he’s got players pressuring him and it can be a lonely place.
“I think the one good thing that came out of it, for whatever reason, he decided to go to the benches and explain what he was going to do. By going to the benches and coming back, that created a little bit of time to compose himself and get back into the zone. If he had the free-kick retaken, he would still have been in this slightly out of focus range, if you like, and not really able to control it as he did afterwards.
“It just was a mistake he made, I think the mistake being allowing the free-kick to be taken originally. If there’s one learning point any referee can take from this, it’s to make sure you are ready before you have any free-kick retaken.”
INCIDENT: Brighton were also awarded two penalties at The Hawthorns. The first was for an Okay Yokuslu handball, which was given after a VAR review. Then, Conor Townsend was penalised for a tackle on Pascal Gross inside the area. Both penalties were missed by Brighton.
DERMOT’S VERDICT: Correct decisions.
DERMOT SAYS: “I think he [Yokuslu] leads with the arm. This is where VAR is really good because the referee wasn’t sure, allowed play to continue and VAR checked it in progress. The game was stopped, brought back and the penalty was given.
“Once Lee had gone to the monitor, he could see it then and the penalty was given correctly.
“I think Townsend on Gross was a foul as well. A lot of people have said to me they think he gets the ball, and I’ve said if he gets the ball, he gets it after he goes around the man. Once you go around the man like that, you’ve got to play the man first, which I think he does. I’m not sure he does get the ball, but he certainly gets the man.”
INCIDENT: In the 14th minute, Callum Hudson-Odoi appeared to handle the ball in the Blues’ box but, after a VAR check advised referee Stuart Attwell to watch a replay on the pitchside monitor, he decided against awarding a penalty – a decision which infuriated United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Asked if he thought his side should have been given a penalty, Solskjaer told Sky Sports: “Yep, 100 per cent. They’re shouting it’s handball for our player, but when you look at it on the video, it’s taken two points away from us.”
DERMOT’S VERDICT: Referee not convinced by handball.
DERMOT SAYS: “I think it’s what we call a ‘modern-day penalty’. We’re 24 or 25 matches into the season and these have been given week in, week out. We talk about consistency and I think the expectation was to give a penalty. More people are surprised that a penalty wasn’t given.
“I think it does [touch Hudson-Odoi’s hand before Greenwood’s arm] and VAR obviously thought it did because he sent Stuart over to have a look. Stuart wasn’t convinced, when he goes to the screen, he retains all the options and he decided he didn’t think it was a penalty so he stuck with his on-field decision.
“I think what’s happened is we said from the outset that it [using VAR for clear and obvious errors] would be tweaked over a period of time and it has been tweaked. Over the last 18 months, we’ve moved forward.
“We asked the referees to go to the screens, that was a big thing, and we didn’t say if the referee goes to the screen, he has to change his mind. It was still said that he could retain all options. We’ve seen referees go to the screens and change their decision, we’ve seen referees stick with the on-field decision too so it is a better product than when we started in August last season.”
INCIDENT: As Nicolas Pepe drove into the area, he went to ground after two successive tackles by Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans. The referee initially gave a penalty, but this was overturned by VAR.
DERMOT’S VERDICT: Correct decision.
DERMOT SAYS: “I think the one to really look at it the Tielemans one because that is in the penalty area. But I think his foot is planted, I don’t think there’s any contact between Tielemans and Pepe.
“When you see if there’s a foul by Ndidi, I think he clips him, but it’s clearly outside the penalty area. VAR has reversed the decision to give a penalty, quite rightly.”