Vincent Kompany received the second red card of the afternoon as his Manchester City side overcame Arsenal 2-0 in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium, but it was a harsh sending off for the City skipper who appeared to win the ball cleanly.
Referee Mike Dean had earlier dismissed Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny for denying a clear goalscoring chance in the penalty box, though Edin Dzeko missed the resulting penalty with Wojciech Szczesny kicking the ball onto the post before saving as it bounced back across the goal line.
James Milner and Dzeko then put the away team two goals clear before halftime—but Kompany's red card 15 minutes from the end provided the last incident of the match.
With Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere powering through midfield with the ball, the City defender took it upon himself to stop the attack dead—launching himself forward, foot outstretched, and clearly made the tackle with the ball the object of his attentions.
Seemingly, Kompany was dismissed for a dangerous tackle, perhaps with the ref's view calling it as two-footed—but the replay of the incident clearly shows Kompany with one foot outstretched towards the ball, the other tucked behind himself.
Pause the video on seven seconds: There is no chance that the City defender's tackle can be classed as either two-footed or dangerous.
The Belgian international has executed a perfectly good challenge, winning the ball cleanly and stopping Arsenal creating a chance, yet now faces a three-match ban for his sending off.
Kompany himself tweeted after the match claiming he had made a fine challenge and that he would do it again if necessary, while manager Roberto Mancini confirmed to the BBC he would appeal the suspension facing his defender.
Kompany himself tweeted:
First. Massive congrats to our team and fans, great game! Also. No grudges against the referee, I understand the difficulty of the job. :-)— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) January 13, 2013
About the tackle: If the ball is overrun by the opponent and a 50/50 challenge occurs, collision is inevitable. twitter.com/VincentKompany…— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) January 13, 2013
Ultimately I'm a defender: Appeal may work or not. I will never pull out of a challenge, as much as I will never intend to injury a player.— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) January 13, 2013
With the City skipper being shown a red card for a seemingly good challenge, is it not time for the rules on what constitutes a red card to be redefined in this instance?
Clear, two-footed tackles; knee-height, studs-forward challenges; and those where the player leaves the ground for some time are all of course blights on the game which need to be eradicated, and true enough, the referee has but a second to judge if each tackle merits the card or not.
But there has to be a line of distinction between a bad, dangerous tackle and one which is merely hard. Players have to win the ball, have to challenge and show spirit. Take away tackling and you take away one of the most important aspects of football; that is the physicality of the game.
Kompany is set to be punished for operating within the laws of the game, barring the FA overturning the ban, because of the interpretation of the referee of his challenge.
Is it surely not the duty of the game's governing body to step in now and clarify the situation so that tackling, hard and fair, is allowed to flourish while malicious intent is—pardon the pun—stamped out?