Referee: Kevin Friend
As I sit in glorious sunshine in a resort just outside a small town called Fetiye in Turkey, I currently have a smug look on my face. It was a fantastic win for the team and the perfect performance following such a disappointing display against Bournemouth. Bilic deserves a lot of credit for setting up the team the way he did and he also got it tactically spot on. Records are there to be broken and it’s a great achievement for the club. With limited wifi and no sport being shown in my hotel, I was glued to West Ham’s official Twitter page for updates and resorted to YouTube for highlights of the game to analyse the refereeing performance in Gameweek 4.
Kevin Friend was the man in the middle for the game and he’s always been a referee who performs well. Last season he was one of the standout referees and is called upon regularly for the ‘big’ clashes. From what I saw, Friend had a pretty good game but there was two standout decisions which will get people talking. I am of course referring to the two sending offs for Liverpool’s Phillip Coutinho and West Ham’s captain Mark Noble.
After looking at the footage a few times, I believe that Friend did get the decision correct to send off Coutinho. Coutinho was already on a caution when Dimitri Payet cheekily turned thus drawing a challenge from the Brazilian playmaker. There are a few different camera angles which portray the incident differently. One angle looks like Coutinho clumsily took Payet’s legs away and the another looks like Payet fell on Coutinho. But regardless of that, Friend deemed it as a second caution and sent Coutinho off. Coutinho could have avoiding this situation completely by staying on his feet and this leads me nicely into the next incident.
When you’re 2-0 up, away at Anfield with Liverpool down to 10 men, all you want from your players is to keep a cool head, but we’re West Ham and we like to do stuff the hard way. So far this season in all competitions, we’ve had 6 red cards. Luckily, we had a strong foothold in the game to see the game out 10 vs 10. However, the red card for Mark Noble was a very bad call from Kevin Friend, but I can understand somewhat why he thought it warranted a sending off. Noble was in this own penalty area before getting clipped by a Liverpool player and Friend correctly awards a free kick. However, Noble challenges for the loose ball but then catches Danny Ings, Friend deemed this as excessive force and sent Noble for an early bath.
There’s a few things I want to clear up with this decision. From Friend’s point of view, he saw Noble lunge for the ball which he wasn’t in control of and he might have thought that that the follow through was too excessive. Secondly, as a referee there are three categories that you go by when a foul has taken place. You have to determine whether the challenge is Careless, Reckless or using Excessive Force. If it’s a Careless challenge, a talking to is all that’s needed and warn the player if it happens again, action will be taken. If it’s a Reckless challenge – when a player is late into tackle or misread the situation – a caution is the resulting action. If the player was using Excessive Force, a red card is the only action to take. So going through Noble’s challenge, was it careless? Yes, he wasn’t in control of the ball and he did follow through because of his momentum, but he won the ball before that fairly. Was it Reckless? No, although he’s studs were showing momentarily, the challenge wasn’t two footed or dangerous. Was Noble using Excessive Force? Not at all. Noble was more than entitled to go for the ball and it wasn’t high or had any intent of malice.
Overall, I believe Friend got this decision incorrect and he didn’t judge the incident correctly. I think West Ham will appeal this decision as I believe it will get rescinded. Challenges like this need to still be welcomed into our game, the likes of Noble, Milner, Matic etc pride themselves on being a good tacklers and putting their body on the line for their team, but still playing within the ‘Laws of The Game.’
On the back of this, I am looking forward to the rest of the transfer window as I think we do need a couple of players to strengthen the time. I will be back after the international break for my weekly analysis.