Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka won’t be feeling particularly peachy today. He might contemplate the fact he could have done better to prevent Willy Boly’s controversial equaliser for Wolves in Monday night’s Premier League encounter. But, more importantly, he’ll be disturbed by the one absolute truth of the matter:
IT WAS A FOUL.
Everyday goalkeeping analysis has been the bugbear of many a man between the sticks for as long as I can remember. Yet even when you think you’ve heard it all – even when two defenders and a striker analyse an incident involving a goalkeeper in minute detail after the game – you still find yourself shouting at the TV in disbelief.
On Sky Sports, Andy Hinchcliffe, Patrick Kluivert and Jamie Carragher all suggested Boly did no wrong in manhandling Dubravka to head home in injury time.
In co-comms, Hinchcliffe was unflinching. “The goalkeeper wasn’t fouled here,” he barked. “He’s trying to catch it, misjudges it completely and that enables Boly to just head it home. He’s under no real pressure… Why he’s trying to catch it beneath his own crossbar is beyond me.”
Kluivert claimed Dubravka needed to “defend himself as well”. Upon looking at a replay of the incident, he added, “Here, if he jumps up, get a punch at it and jump earlier because you can jump with your hands straight and punch it out. Why do you want to catch the ball there? It’s the last minute, last seconds.”
For a moment it appeared Carragher, who suggested slowing the replay down made the incident look a lot worse than it actually was, might argue those respective points. “His hands are resting on top of the goalkeepers shoulders,” said the ex-Liverpool man. “If we stop it there, that looks like assault. He’s got his hands around his neck…”
Brilliant. Please do go on, Jamie.
“… No, it’s not a foul. I think the goalkeeper has to do more.”
Unsurprisingly, a number of football fans agreed on social media. Somewhat surprisingly, however, many of them were goalkeepers. The main arguments being that Dubravka should have been stronger, that Dubravka should have opted to punch and that Dubravka should have been more assertive in commanding his area.
Should he have done better? Yes. Definitely. He could have been stronger and he could have jumped slightly earlier. Should he have punched? No. Contrary to opinion, he wasn’t directly under the bar. He was a yard or so out which, under pressure, could have made tipping back over the bar a more dangerous option. Not only that, he’d have then conceded a corner in the dying moments which, had Wolves scored from, he’d have been lambasted for not catching instead.
Dubravka’s confidence was such that he could claim it – and he was reliant on the fact he wouldn’t be fouled.
BUT HE WAS FOULED.
Boly also had momentum with a running jump, while Dubravka was jumping from a standing position. In that instance, it’s difficult to completely protect yourself.
Carragher continued to state football is a contact sport and “you can’t not touch the goalkeeper”. Fair enough. But when that contact results in the ball going through a goalkeeper’s hands onto the head of an opposing player, it has to be a free-kick. The reason the ball has slipped through Dubravka’s palms is because he’s been impeded by Boly and that has affected his vision.
Consider a similar scenario elsewhere on the pitch. A goal kick to a striker, if you will. The defender climbs over the striker to head the ball and, nine times out of ten, the referee awards a foul. Could the striker do more? Yes. He could back in, he could be stronger, he could jump higher.
BUT IT DOESN’T STOP IT FROM BEING A FOUL.
At Nottingham Forest last weekend, Brentford’s Dan Bentley misjudged a punch from a corner and allowed Molla Wague to head in. The day before, Tyrone Mings outjumped Dean Henderson to spark Aston Villa’s comeback against Sheffield United. Neither were fouls on the goalkeeper, because neither player impeded the goalkeeper.
Regardless of what Dubravka could have done. Regardless of whether Rafa Benitez changed his mind between talking to Sky Sports and then the press. Regardless of whether Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles thought his No1 made an error…
WILLY BOLY FOULED MARTIN DUBRAVKA.
The evidence, you might say, is damning.