Manchester United’s 3-2 win at Chelsea today involved some beautiful soccer and quite a bit of controversy in the second half. Here is my take on the three crucial officiating decisions midway through the second half when the match was tied 2-2:
1. Branislav Ivanovic’s red card for taking down Ashley Young was the correct decision. Young was clear on goal and Ivanovic was the last defender. He made his tackle from behind and got the man, not the ball. The referee’s decision to give him a straight red is mandated by the rulebook. Kudos to Ivanovic for realizing that he was in the wrong and not making much of fuss before leaving the pitch.
2. Fernando Torres’s second yellow card and subsequent sending off was harsh, though it could have been prevented if Torres did not have a deserved reputation for diving. The referee was in a bad position, and from his angle one could see how it looked like a dive because there was only slight contact from Jonny Evans. It certainly looked like Torres embellished a bit from any angle. I do not think he deserved a card, but again, it was Torres reaping a bit of what he’d sown in the past. I suppose this sounds like blaming the victim, but I would rather have referees err on the side of punishing diving too much rather than too little. These two decisions by the referee are ones that rarely get made (even the correct first decision); I was glad that he had the courage to make them, and wish that more referees would.
3. Javier Hernandez’s game-winning goal was clearly offside. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.