There were a lot of things that went wrong for Sporting Kansas City in their 4-4 draw against the New England Revolution on Saturday night. A LOT.
But one of the key moments of the match came in the 65th minute of the match, when head referee Baldomero Toledo awarded the Revs a penalty kick, saying Johnny Russell handled the ball in the box after video review.
The call was at a critical moment in the game and was a huge blow to SKC’s comeback effort. Sporting had just recently cut the deficit to one goal and was looking more dangerous in the attack than they had all game.
Sporting KC fans were in shock. Players were furious. Peter Vermes was livid. How in the world could any reasonable person look at that play and say that was a PK worthy handball?
“It’s not a handball. 100% it’s not a handball. There’s no way,” said Vermes after the match. “If that’s a handball, then I’m gonna tell you that in every game, I gotta assume in every game there will probably two or three penalty kicks in every game.”
PK for the #NERevs: VAR determines a hand ball in the box pic.twitter.com/YsvjWrC60F— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) April 28, 2019
“The close proximity of Johnny with Agudelo... his hand is down at his side,” Vermes continued. “The ball hits him [in his upper arm]. What’s he supposed to do? Take his arm and [put it behind his body?] There’s no way. It’s 100% not a handball. I don’t understand how the VAR guy can’t even see that and say it’s close proximity.”
It’s hard to argue with anything Vermes says here. Even looking at the slow motion replay the Revolution tweeted out, Johnny is already sliding to the left before Agudelo kicks the ball at point blank range, and his arm is in what virtually everyone (except for Baldomero Toledo...) would consider a natural position.
The International Football Association Laws of the Game say regarding handballs:
Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.
The following must be considered:
the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offense
Read that, then go back and watch the replay of Johnny’s handball. Do you see a “deliberate act” by Johnny to hit the ball with his hand? Did Toledo take into account “the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)?” What about “the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)?” It seems that the law regarding handballs was specifically written to avoid calls just like this one.
What makes it worse, is that the VAR took time to stop the match, deemed the missed call “clear and obvious,” signaled to Toledo that he should review the play, and then Toledo overturned the call to give the penalty.
Vermes likened the play to a goal scored by Fernando Llorente of Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League match against Manchester City last week.
“Did you see the Liverpool goal by Llorente? It does touch his arm. But from my point of view when I’m watching it, a player from his team jumps first at the first post and he misses it. The guy marking him goes up as well and he misses it. Llorente is in the air. He can’t change his movement. It’s not like he [reached his arm out] and pushed the ball into the net. He was in the air and the ball hits him [in the arm] and goes into the net. There’s no way for the guy to move. It wasn’t “hand to ball” that was “ball to arm.” He can’t move.”
AND TOTTENHAM RETAKE THE AGGREGATE LEAD THROUGH LLORENTE— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) April 17, 2019
Watch the finish NOW on #BRLive: https://t.co/OJ2810cLCw pic.twitter.com/rwnnovsBdc
It’s hard to see in this video, but if you look at the play Vermes is describing, the ball hits Llorente in the arm before deflecting into the goal. In this case, the referee and VAR both determined that, according to the laws of the game, Llorente did not make a “deliberate act” to make contact with the ball, and they took into account the fact that the ball was moving toward Llorente’s arm, not his arm toward the ball.
In the end, Vermes called on FIFA, PRO, and the league to clarify the rules regarding handballs.
“I don’t even understand how you can even think [it’s a handball], unless I don’t understand the rules, and I’ve been doing this quite a long time. But I know it’s a judgement call. That’s where the issue is. I wish FIFA or somebody would clarify, really clarify, what this all means. There are situations now where a guy slides in the box and the ball hits their hands and now they don’t call a penalty anymore, whereas before anytime they slid in the box and they tried to block a cross and it hits his hand it’s a penalty.
I wish I could tell you. But from my experience, no chance. No chance it’s a hand ball.”
In the end, Sporting KC were able to come back and earn a hard fought point even despite the bad overturned call from Toledo. But what could have been had the Revs not been awarded that penalty?
It’s impossible to say exactly how the rest of the game would have turned out, but there is certainly a real possibility that we’d be talking about Sporting KC earning all three points at home after a 4-3 victory. Instead we’re left with a sour taste in our mouths thanks to Baldomero Toledo once again.
What did you think of the call? Let us know in the comments below!