West Ham defender Fabian Balbuena should not have been sent off against Chelsea – Ref Watch

In the latest Ref Watch, Dermot Gallagher looks at incidents from Chelsea’s win at West Ham on Saturday, plus Man City’s Carabao Cup final victory against Tottenham and more…

West Ham 0-1 Chelsea

INCIDENT: Late in the game, Fabian Balbuena went to clear the ball and during the follow through, landed on the back of Ben Chilwell’s calf. After a VAR check and referee Chris Kavanagh using the pitchside monitor, Balbuena was shown a straight red card.

DERMOT’S VERDICT: Incorrect decision.

DERMOT SAYS: “I watched the game and it never went through my mind that it was a red card.

“I just thought he cleared the ball up field. You see the player on the floor, but I didn’t expect anything. VAR checked it and they checked it very forensically and what they did when they slowed it down and they showed a point of contact on the calf, they sent Chris Kavanagh to the screen.


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“Once Chris goes to the screen and the image they showed him, it seduced him into thinking that it was endangering the safety of an opponent because they showed it in slow motion and with a freeze frame, and the more I watched it on the review area, the more I thought it would be a red card. But, on the field, I certainly didn’t think it was a red card.

“On the field, it’s just a coming together. Balbuena clears the ball, but when you show the image on the screen that they did, it looks as though he’s put his studs into his calf. And when you see that over and over again, which they did, that just planted the doubt in the referee’s mind and he sent him off for seriously endangering an opponent, and the pictures, when you freeze it, show that.

“However, the pictures on the field show it isn’t.”

INCIDENT: Soon after, in a similar incident, Vladimir Coufal caught Antonio Rudiger on the top of the thigh with a follow through. However, nothing was given and after the game, West Ham manager David Moyes questioned why one was given as a red card and the other was not.

DERMOT’S VERDICT: It was a coming together.

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DERMOT SAYS: “The easy answer is default back to picture one because I don’t think the first one was a red card on the field, and I don’t think this was a red card. I think they are exactly the same.

“Coufal goes to clear the ball, Rudiger comes into his space and there is a clash. There’s always going to be a clash because they are both challenging for the ball, but it’s what I call normal football contact.

“Nobody would expect it to be sanctioned with a yellow card or a red card, even a free-kick because it’s just a coming together.”

Man City 1-0 Tottenham

INCIDENT: During the Carabao Cup final, Aymeric Laporte was not booked for a pull back on Lucas Moura. There was a similar incident soon after, for which Laporte was booked. Questions were raised after over whether he should have been booked for both incidents and sent off earlier in the game, after he went on to score the winning goal.

DERMOT’S VERDICT: Can’t say he should have been sent off.

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DERMOT SAYS: “The easy answer is that he wasn’t on a yellow card when he committed the second one. If he’d have had a yellow card for the first one, he may well have not committed that second one. We don’t know.

“But, if he was on a yellow card, for the first one and he did commit the second challenge, he wouldn’t have been on the field.

“That said, you can only say the referee may well have been within his rights to yellow card the first one but because he didn’t, you can’t say he should have been sent off.”

Arsenal 0-1 Everton

INCIDENT: Arsenal were awarded a penalty after Richarlison stuck out a leg at Dani Ceballos, with the midfielder going over. However, after a VAR check, Nicolas Pepe was penalised for being offside in the build-up and the penalty was chalked off.

DERMOT’S VERDICT: Correct decision to rescind the penalty.

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DERMOT SAYS: “It was an incorrect decision and it wouldn’t have been right.

“But when everything is checked it is a very interesting decision because Pepe is given offside in the build-up and they default back to that and that has done the referee a favour because I didn’t think it was a penalty.

“With the offside, this is the subjective element of it. The guy looking at it has to judge have Everton had a chance to win that ball back and that phase Arsenal played such good football, they didn’t have a chance to win possession back so it’s decided they went back to the Pepe incident and gave the offside there.”

Leeds 0-0 Man Utd

INCIDENT: In the first half, Jack Harrison’s cross hit Luke Shaw on the arm inside the area. However, referee Craig Pawson did not give a penalty with Shaw’s arms by his side, with VAR also not overturning the decision.

DERMOT’S VERDICT: Handled correctly.

DERMOT SAYS: “The referee thought not, and we talk about referee’s on-field decisions and we talk about VAR not getting involved unnecessarily. When you see this, it comes very quickly to him, his arms are down by his side when it happens. Referee says on the field, no and in cases like that it isn’t a clear and obvious error and I’m quite happy to see the VAR leave it alone.”

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