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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 17 June, 2018

Gary Neville's outlandish comments and why Jon Moss was right to send off Sadio Mane

Today, the official was absolutely right and those who hysterically dismissed him and his ability need to be held accountable.

Image: Nigel French

THERE’S BEEN MUCH discussion about the sending-off of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane in his side’s 5-0 defeat to Manchester City.

During Sky’s coverage of the game, co-commentator Gary Neville was furious at referee Jon Moss’ decision to show the attacker a red card after he collided with goalkeeper Ederson.

“It’s a 50-50 really and Ederson just gets there first,” Neville said.

Sometimes a stadium can tell you if it’s a bad challenge and there wasn’t great reaction from anybody. I don’t think that is a red card. His eyes are on the ball, it’s ridiculous. He wins that challenge, the goal is there for him. Jon Moss, you have just ruined the game there. He didn’t need to give a red card. He could have given a yellow. I think he’s got it wrong.

The reason Ederson is injured is because his back three have ridiculously tried to play the offside. It wasn’t one of those where you think the goalkeeper is the favourite. He does well to get out, and his foot is high.”

Neville’s Sky colleague Jamie Carragher admitted he needed to watch a couple of replays before concluding Mane deserved to be shown a red.

“It took a few angles, and I needed convincing because I didn’t think it at first. Yes, it’s a red card. He had his eyes on the ball, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t endangering his opponent.”

It’s difficult to grasp why the decision has caused so much debate and it’s also important to acknowledge how dangerous Neville’s comments really are.

Firstly, the incident itself.

Mane raced onto a through-ball and challenged Ederson as the goalkeeper raced outside his area to head it clear.

Trying desperately to reach it first, Mane stretched out his boot and caught Ederson in the face with his studs. The goalkeeper had already diverted the ball away before contact was made and Moss immediately blew for a foul before instantly dismissing the Senegalese forward.

Meanwhile, Ederson needed medical treatment and was eventually stretchered off in a neck-brace.

Moss should be commended for a few things. His reaction to a quick Liverpool break (involving the immensely fast Mane) was excellent and he was able to keep up with the counter while maintaining an excellent position to view the collision. Sometimes, because they’re human, officials can be caught out by the speed of an attack and trail behind the play, making it difficult to commit to a firm decision if there’s a subsequent incident. But Moss did what was needed and it led to a swift resolution.

In making the decision, he also applied the rules of the game.

Serious foul play is one of the seven reasons why a player can be sent-off. The Laws of the Game define serious foul play as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 13.31.22

Mane was guilty of serious foul play. His challenge was reckless and endangered the safety of Ederson.

Moss had a few seconds to determine this. And he got it absolutely spot-on.

Referees get absolutely annihilated when they err. Not only that but managers (and supporters) have total recall when it comes to an official making a mistake, mainly because it fuels their sense of conspiracy that, obviously, certain referees favour some teams and despise others.

Now, here’s a situation where an official is deserving of high praise based on a really smart decision. The evidence is incredibly conclusive. And still we have influential figures who ridicule and rubbish.

Neville’s take on the incident is bizarre, not least because he’s carved out a reputation as being different from the rest.

There are so many things wrong with his description of the Mane incident that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Sometimes a stadium can tell you if it’s a bad challenge and there wasn’t great reaction from anybody.”

Probably not the best way for a referee to determine if a dangerous foul has been committed, to be honest.

His eyes are on the ball, it’s ridiculous.”

Mane’s apparent will to get the ball is completely irrelevant here. Whether or not his eyes were on the ball makes no difference. A comment like this is incredibly irritating and should be filed alongside ‘He’s not that type of player’ or ‘That’s only his first real foul of the game’. A referee operates – within reason and certainly regarding big incidents – in black and white. Because they have to.

(If) he wins that challenge, the goal is there for him.”

Using Neville’s logic here, Mane wanted to get the ball and score so, therefore, what he did beforehand is null and void. Basically, because Mane hasn’t gone in to break Ederson in half he shouldn’t be sent-off, regardless of subsequently smashing his studs into the goalkeeper’s face.

Jon Moss, you have just ruined the game there. He didn’t need to give a red card. He could have given a yellow.”

This is the worst part of Neville’s analysis, mainly because he’s just conformed to type with a silly, pithy comment about an official needing to take a good, hard look at themselves in the mirror. And why?

Because, instead of being forceful with a decision and backing himself into making a strong call, Moss should’ve just gone with the safe option and ignored all of his training and the 20 odd years experience he has as a professional so that Manchester City and Liverpool could play out a lovely advertisement for Premier League football on Sky television and give us everything we wanted.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Mike Egerton

To blame Moss for ruining the game is absolutely outlandish and Neville should be severely reprimanded for it. Occasionally, a referee’s interpretation of an incident can lead to debate. Maybe it wasn’t clear-cut. Maybe it was a grey area of the game.

This afternoon, Moss applied the letter of the law to an incident involving a player who caught another player with a late challenge, studs-up and on the face.

There is no debate here. There was an excellent refereeing decision and some appalling behaviour from so-called football analysts.

Of course, because these guys are comfy pundits, their ‘difference of opinion’ will be looked upon as a justifiable excuse. Because, after all, football is a game of different opinions, isn’t it?

Well, not really. Football is a game with rules. With rights and wrongs. And when we condemn and abuse and point fingers because of the wrongs, we can’t be hypocritical about it. We can’t pick and choose when we do it.

Today, Jon Moss was absolutely right. And those who hysterically dismissed him and his ability need to be held accountable.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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