There is a saying in America that one play cannot cost a team the game. In soccer however, that is not the case. As a result, officials need to be extra careful that they get their decisions right. On Saturday, the officials got a crucial decision wrong and it cost Manchester United dearly.
The Red Devils went in front early in the second half, after a scrappy goal by Javier Hernandez. The lead looked to be safe, as Newcastle hardly threatened. About 15 minutes after Hernandez goal, Ben Afra went on a run down the right side of the box and Rio Ferdinand made a perfect challenge to take the ball off of him. He took all of the ball and it rolled out for a corner kick, which the referee, Mike Jones, correctly awarded. Inexplicably, the linesman, Mike Flynn, raised his flag and called for a penalty. Not only was the challenge completely clean, but the linesman was not a position to overrule Jones. Jones was much closer to the play and Flynn was blocked by Afra and couldn’t see if the tackle was clean. Jones consulted with Flynn and even though Jones had seen the play clearly, he changed his mind and awarded a penalty. Demba Ba stepped up and easily slotted the penalty to make it 1-1.
Manchester United would throw everything forward in the final stages of the game, but it was to no avail. As a result, they were left to rue the terrible decision by the officials. A win tomorrow by Manchester City would see the Red Devils slip to seven points behind their city rivals, so dropping these two points will hurt them badly. Newcastle’s penalty will also lead to supporters of instant replay being more vocal in their pursuit of seeing it introduced into soccer.