Explainer: Why Liverpool's Champions League final penalty was given

The referee’s decision to penalise Moussa Sissoko for handball seemed harsh as it struck his chest before touching his arm.

Mauricio Pochettino speaks with the referee.
Mauricio Pochettino speaks with the referee.

THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE final between got off to a controversial start as Liverpool were awarded a penalty for a handball by Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko in the very first minute.

Sadio Mane’s attempted cross was blocked when the ball struck Sissoko’s chest and then deflecting onto his arm, prompting referee Damir Skomina to immediately point to the spot.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah converted the penalty to give his side the lead in the second minute of the clash in Madrid, but the incident has caused a lot of debate among football fans.

The referee’s decision seemed harsh given, although Sissoko had his arm stretched out to point at something, the ball initially hit his chest and he did not mean to touch it with his arm.

However, UEFA has adopted a stricter policy on handballs in the Champions League this season following the introduction of the video assistant referee (VAR) in the knockout rounds of the competition.

Clarifying how officials would judge a handball with the use of VAR, UEFA’s head of referees Roberto Rossetti said in January that a stance like Sissoko’s would be punished.

The big challenge is the position of the arm,” he told The Times. ”When the arm is totally out of the body above the shoulder it should be penalised.

“If the defender is making the body bigger in order to block the ball it is not fair. It is different if the defender is challenging or playing the ball and it rebounds.

“But if he is looking to block a cross or a shot on goal and the player is trying to spread his body then it is a handball.”

International Football Association Board (IFAB) technical director David Elleray added: ”If the arms are extended beyond that silhouette then the body is being made unnaturally bigger, with the purpose of it being a bigger barrier to the opponent or the ball.

Players should be allowed to have their arms by their side because it’s their natural silhouette.”

The IFAB has introduced new rules to the game as of the day of the Champions League final, including changes to the law on handballs, though they do not apply to the match between Tottenham and Liverpool.

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The new rule states that a handball will be given if the ball “touches a player’s hand or arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger”, or “the ball touches a player’s hand or arm when it is above their shoulder (unless the player has deliberately played the ball which then touches their hand/arm)”

But situations like Sissoko’s would not be penalised, as there would be no free kick or penalty if “the ball touches a player’s hand or arm directly from their own head, body, foot or the head, body or foot of another player who is near”.

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