Referee Undiano made a monumental error in the application of the laws of the game, leaving Sevilla dumbstruck.
Real Madrid’s Nacho struck from a quickly taken free-kick that caught Sevilla napping, and fuming, in Real’s 4-1 La Liga victory at the Bernabeu on Sunday.
Alberto Undiano, the referee was standing in front of Sevilla‘s players who were building a ‘wall’ and Nacho had the ball rolling into the back of the net before they could react. Real Madrid celebrated as Sevilla protested vehemently.
Sevilla’s Chilean coach Jorge Sampaoli and his team were furious with Undiano but he waved away their protests.
If you read FIFA’s latest rule book for 2016-17 as laid down by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the referee was totally wrong in not asking Real Madrid to take the free-kick again.
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Law 5, The Referee, Powers & Duties Clause 3, states that the referee “supervises and/or indicates the restart of play.”
This clause was not in the books for long and has been included in the laws of the game now.
Referees are advised to allow players to take the free-kick as quickly as possible only to ensure that the paying spectator is not denied watching the game; that the game is flowing.
But then those situations are entirely different. This relates, most often, to free-kicks far away from the penalty box. But this was just outside the box and at a very important spot. The position of a free-kick is crucial. Had an indirect free-kick been given inside the box, will the referee have allowed for it to have been taken in similar fashion? Surely not.
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As long as the referee supervises the restart and indicates that the kick be taken, it is unto players to do so as fast as possible. The referee does not have his back to the ball as was the case when Nacho struck.
When the referee is arranging the wall and asking players to move back to the stipulated 10 yards from the spot of the infringement and the goalkeeper is also making sure that the wall covers pole angle while he covers the other, the attacking team cannot take the free-kick till the signal is given.
Undiano had clearly not whistled and Nacho’s act was noting but an act of unsporting behaviour. The free-kick ought to have been retaken rather than for the goal to stand.
Some former referees have said that it was a correct decision. But they have probably not read the laws in its present form. Surely everyone will agree that the referee was not supervising the restart nor had he indicated for it to be restarted.
Former referees are never known to criticize the decisions. Howlers have been committed by referees even in a World Cup final, let alone in earlier rounds. Yet these worthies have remained silent or supported the man with the whistle.
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But the action of the authorities in not giving further important assignments to referees who have bungled is the best acceptance of the blunder. Why would they be put into cold storage otherwise?
Had the game not been played at Real Madrid’s home venue, Undiano might not have acted the way he did. He was playing to the gallery and ensuring that the packed stadium was happy.
It remains to be seen how the Spanish Football Association’s Referees Committee reacts or acts in future. Action against referees is not always spelt out. Yes, unless he reverses the decision before play restarts nothing can be done now. The goal cannot be taken away and the decision will remain. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that Undiano made a monumental error in the application of the laws of the game. And this will not be the first time decisions will favour a home team.
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