10 Worst Refereeing Decisions of the 2013/14 Premier League Season
The 2013/14 season was one of the most entertaining, absorbing and controversial Premier League seasons to date, with the destination of the title only being decided on the last day.
Manchester City triumphed over West Ham United to secure their second crown in three seasons, but looking back over the campaign's poorest refereeing decisions, incorrect calls from referees helped them score vital victories in two pivotal games to swing the advantage in their favour.
Similar to previous years, the men in the middle attracted unwanted media attention and criticism following some bizarre, baffling and appalling decisions. As early as November 11, Mike Walters of The Mirror voiced his concerns at the inconsistencies being shown by referees, insisting that:
It's not putting it too strongly to suggest English football is facing a refereeing crisis. Too many officials are being panicked into making crass decisions late in the game, usually against so-called lesser teams, and the fans are being fleeced.
So what were the worst calls made this year? Read on to find out and please be sure to add your own favourites in the comment section below.
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal, March 22: Gibbs Mistakenly Sent off
As sendings off go, this was perhaps one of the most farcical, and avoidable, in the history of the game. Perhaps that sounds a little dramatic, but Andre Marriner’s moment of madness is one of the overriding memories of a season that gave the neutral everything in terms of drama, intrigue, excitement and joy.
A day that began with Arsene Wenger being lauded on his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal soon descended into a nightmare for the Frenchman, as his side trailed 2-0 with just seven minutes on the clock.
His afternoon got significantly worse in the 17th minute, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dived acrobatically to his left to turn away Eden Hazard’s goal-bound shot with his fingertips. Arsenal feared the worst, but players and fans alike were left stunned when Marriner showed the subsequent red card to left-back Kieran Gibbs, despite Oxlade-Chamberlain admitting to the offence himself.
Daniel Taylor, reporting in The Guardian, didn’t hold back in his assessment of one the most bizarre and controversial cases of mistaken identity ever seen on a football pitch.
That passage will leave Wenger's party-cum-nightmare with a certain infamy and there really is little excuse for Marriner bearing in mind Oxlade-Chamberlain clearly could be seen owning up that it was him.
By then, Marriner had shown a red card to Gibbs. The referee's reaction—ignoring what Oxlade-Chamberlain was telling him, Gibbs' protests and the general shock of everyone around him—was haughty and self-defeating.
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City, January 12: Tiote’s Goal Ruled out
Looking back on a title race that was ultimately decided by a mere two points, the common assessment is that "the best team won."
However, looking through the archives of a glorious season, Manchester City’s 2-0 victory at Newcastle United in January could be seen as a fortunate turning point.
With City leading 1-0 thanks to Edin Dzeko’s eighth-minute goal, the hosts were denied a deserved equaliser in the 34th minute when Cheick Tiote found the net with a stunning 20-yard volley.
However, after consultation with his assistant, referee Mike Jones ruled the goal out with three Newcastle players appearing to be in an offside position.
Everyone, apart from the most ardent City supporters, were of the opinion that the home players were not interfering with play, but Jones’ decision was exposed for the error it was when City’s Samir Nasri had an almost identical goal allowed in their 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic in early March.
Lee Ryder of chroniclelive.co.uk reported Tiote’s reaction to the decision:
I don’t understand why the referee didn’t give the goal.
I think it was Gouffran who was next to the goalie, but he didn’t touch it. I don’t know why the assistant referee decided to give offside.
That’s football, we need to accept it and go forward.
An injury-time strike from Alvaro Negredo secured the points for City, who went top thanks to the victory.
West Ham United 2-0 Swansea City, February 1: Carroll Harshly Sent off
Andy Carroll didn’t have the best of seasons for West Ham United following his switch from Liverpool, but the Hammers’ 2-0 win over the Swans was one of the high points for him.
Two first-half assists for Kevin Nolan put the hosts comfortably in the driving seat before he was shown a straight red card by referee Howard Webb after appearing to strike Chico Flores with his arm in the 59th minute.
Flores did Carroll no favours with his overly dramatic reaction, jumping to the ground clutching his face as the English striker protested his innocence. Contact was minimal and unintentional, and on this occasion Webb was clearly duped by the Spanish centre-back.
Graeme Yorke of The Daily Mail reports manager Sam Allardyce’s reaction to the incident.
I've just had a look at it and from our point of view I can't see why Howard has decided to give him a red card.
His arm's gone over the top of his head and while his arm's swinging round, coming from a position where both players have tangled and are coming round to correct their balance, there were players running round to obscure [Webb's] view.
So he can't be absolutely certain of what's happened, except that Chico Flores is over-exaggerating, which is generally the norm for him unfortunately.
To clutch his face and roll around, I think that's had a big influence on Howard's decision, thinking that it's caught him in the face when it hasn't at all.
Of course, Allardyce has previous history with Flores and his playacting, as this hilarious clip shows.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Hull City, October 27: Spurs Awarded Late Penalty
Probably not one of the most significant or costly refereeing errors of the season, but Tottenham Hotspur’s late 1-0 victory over Hull City owes as much to the ineptitude of referee Michael Oliver as it does to anything positive Spurs brought to the table.
The hosts had been frustrated by Steve Bruce’s five-man defence, but eventually made their dominance of possession count when Ahmed Elmohamady was harshly penalised for an alleged handball in the 79th minute.
Jan Vertonghen found space on the left side of the penalty area and crossed with Elmohamady closing him down. However, with his left leg outstretched to block, and arms hardly moving from his sides, the ball struck the City man’s left hand and Oliver didn’t hesitate to point to the spot.
Roberto Soldado kept his nerve to send Andre Villas-Boas’ men up to fourth as Bruce was left to rue a point lost, and he was fined £10,000 by the FA for the following comments, as reported in The Daily Mail:
It was a joke decision. I have to ask the question, would we have got it? In my opinion, [Oliver] couldn't wait to give it.
Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea, March 15: Foy, or Is It Hoy, Attracts Chelsea Fury
Ask a Chelsea fan who they think is the Premier League’s worst referee, and it is highly likely they would say Chris Foy.
Foy’s performance in the Blues’ surprise 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa attracted the ire of Jose Mourinho and a plethora of fans after he ruled a goal out for handball and sent two players and Mourinho off during a controversial 90 minutes back in March.
First off, Nemanja Matic was correctly penalised for handling the ball right before slotting home from close range in the first half, a decision Foy can be happy with.
However, Willian was shown a second yellow card for an innocuous challenge on Fabian Delph. Villa fans would say the Chelsea attacker deserved a straight red for his initial booking, a reckless tackle on Karim El Ahmadi, but the minimal contact made to provoke a fall from Delph was not worthy of a card of any kind, let alone a red.
Villa then took the lead through Delph in the 82nd minute and tensions boiled over in stoppage time as Ramires was shown a second yellow for a dangerous challenge on El Ahmadi.
Mourinho’s attempts to have a word with Foy landed him a swift dismissal too, as the Chelsea fans reacted viciously on social media sites to air their disgust with Foy. Or, as it turned out, with British Olympic cycling gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy, as per the Daily Mail.
Swansea City 3-3 Stoke City, November 10: Swans Undone by Late Stoke Spot-Kick
A dramatic climax to a gripping game saw Mark Hughes’ Stoke City escape from the Liberty Stadium with a point after a controversial stoppage-time Charlie Adam penalty stole a 3-3 draw.
Leading 2-0 at the break, Stoke collapsed in the second half as Michael Laudrup’s men staged a scintillating comeback to lead 3-2 with just seconds remaining.
However, in the 96th minute, referee Robert Madley pointed to the spot after Wayne Routledge couldn’t avoid the ball hitting his hand from Steven Nzonzi’s close-range header. Dismissing the rule that says contact must be intentional and that there must be movement of hand to ball, Madley didn’t hesitate in awarding the spot-kick.
Adam stepped up to slot the ball home, but as Joe Lovejoy in The Guardian reports, Madley was possibly the only objective observer in the stadium to believe Routledge’s actions warranted a penalty. Lovejoy quotes Laudrup as saying:
For the equaliser there were seven Stoke players in the box and not one of them appealed for a penalty. Only one man in the stadium thought it was and that was the referee.
I have to be careful what I say about him, otherwise I'll get a fine and I don't have £10,000 to spare.
Chelsea 2-2 West Bromwich Albion, November 9: Ramires Wins Cheap Penalty
Andre Marriner was the culprit yet again when he somehow contrived to deny West Bromwich Albion a famous victory over Chelsea and help maintain the Blues’ spectacular unbeaten home record under Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.
Steve Clarke’s Baggies were leading 2-1 through goals from Shane Long and Stephane Sessegnon and looked set to inflict Mourinho’s first Premier League defeat at the Bridge in 66 games before Ramires forced his way into the box deep into added time and went down under the slightest of touches from Steven Reid.
Eden Hazard stepped up to place the ball past Boaz Myhill from the spot to earn the hosts a share of the spoils, but with the visitors surviving relegation by a meagre three points, this error from Marriner could have proven much more costly than it did.
A dejected Clarke, as per The Independent, said:
I am flabbergasted at the decision. I can’t believe he gave it. It was a bad decision. [Ramires] started going down early, before the contact.
It is very, very hard to take. I am very disappointed and very sad for my team as they deserved the three points, but I’m proud of my team too.
Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal, September 14: Altidore Goal Disallowed
Martin Atkinson is clearly not a man who subscribes to the advantage rule, judging by his questionable decision in Sunderland’s 3-1 home defeat to Arsenal at the beginning of the season.
The home side cancelled out Olivier Giroud’s strike through Craig Gardner’s 48th-minute penalty before Aaron Ramsey put Arsene Wenger’s men ahead for a second time with a superb volley in the 67th minute.
However, the Black Cats were incensed when USA international Jozy Altidore escaped the overzealous attentions of Bacary Sagna on the edge of the Arsenal box before calmly placing the ball past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for what looked like a fine equaliser.
However, Atkinson ruled the goal out and called play back for Sagna’s foul on Altidore, much to the frustration of manager Paolo di Canio, who felt Atkinson was mistaken in his decision to call play back.
The BBC reported the controversial Italian, who was later sent off for arguing with Atkinson, as saying:
It was a mistake—the referee has the power to wait to see how the action finishes, and then he can come back to his decision.
They have to wait. You could see Altidore is much more powerful than Sagna, he was shielding the ball well. It was clear he was near to winning the challenge.
That was a key moment because we can't imagine that we would have many more opportunities to score, so that decided the outcome of the game.
Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool, December 26: Sterling Strike Ruled out
Titles are decided by small margins, and this season’s race to the finish line proved no different. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool arrived at Etihad Stadium in good form and would have gone top with victory over their North-West rivals, who were hot on their heels in third.
The Reds got off to a great start, with Luis Suarez playing a defence-splitting ball into the path of Raheem Sterling, which the young winger latched onto, rounded goalkeeper Joe Hart and slotted home.
However, referee Lee Mason called play back as his assistant incorrectly raised his flag for offside. Replays showed Sterling well onside. Despite the call, Liverpool weren’t too perturbed at the time and soon broke the deadlock through Philippe Coutinho in the 24th minute.
However, had that been a second goal, it would have been hard to see City coming back to win from 2-0 down and the complexion of the title race might have been much different.
A six-point swing, even at the midway stage, would have been psychologically huge for the Anfield men, and perhaps their slight wobble in the last two weeks of the campaign may have gone unpunished if they had the six-point cushion a win over City would have given them.
As it turned out, Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo replied in the first half to seal the win for Manuel Pellegrini’s men, but Rodgers was quick to lay the blame for the defeat with the officials.
According to The Guardian's Paul Wilson, Rodgers suggested:
I was surprised to see that the referee came from Greater Manchester. If it was City vs. Liverpool at Anfield I don't think we would get a referee from the Wirral.
It was a horrendous performance from all the officials. Nothing went our way at all.
Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa, August 21: Terry Escapes Late Handball
Chelsea were the beneficiaries of another lenient refereeing performance when Aston Villa visited Stamford Bridge at the end of August.
Kevin Friend was the man in black that day, and he certainly showed a hospitable nature to the Chelsea players: only showing Branislav Ivanovic a yellow card for an elbow on Christian Benteke and ignoring a blatant handball from John Terry in injury time.
With the teams tied at 1-1, Friend saw the initial elbow from Ivanovic in the 71st minute but only deemed it a yellow, and the same player rubbed salt in the wounds of the Villa players and fans by rising highest to head Frank Lampard’s free-kick past Brad Guzan just two minutes later.
Villa pressed forward in search of a second equaliser and should have been awarded a penalty in the second minute of added time when Terry clearly blocked Gabriel Agbonlahor’s header with his arm, but Friend ignored Villa’s pleas and Chelsea escaped with all three points.
Lambert was later fined £8,000 by the FA for comments made after the game, including these ones as quoted in The Daily Mail by Declan Warrington:
We looked a threat and we've been done by two big decisions that were wrong.
He has missed two decisions. I know the game's hard, but decisions like that, I don't think you can miss them, I really don't. Not decisions like that, they're big game changers.
My team never deserved that.
Watch Paul Lambert's post-match interview here.