The tight battle at the top of the Premier League means that every incorrect decision could be crucial.
What a pity that two such crucial Premiership matches last weekend should have been blemished by controversial refereeing decisions.
At Arsenal, Leicester City’s dazzling and romantic League run was ended thanks in large measure to the sending off of Danny Simpson by referee Martin Atkinson.
It was largely felt that while Simpson’s second offence was culpable and deserving of a yellow card, which proved decisive, the first card was harshly awarded.
You might say that Simpson himself was to blame for not being cautious thereafter but the fact remains that his expulsion inevitably turned the game. Even if Danny Welbeck’s breathlessly late winner, after so many weeks out with injury, won the game so dramatically.
Claudio Ranieri, Leicester’s Italian manager, felt the expulsion was severe and that the game was over in injury time. Interesting to see how his diplomatic and restrained post match television interview differed from the embittered words he offered to the press, insisting that the expulsion was wrong and the match prolonged beyond legitimate time.
As for Spurs, the penalty given them at Manchester City by the reference Mark Clattenburg who was hardly in a position to see what happened cast a shadow over Tottenham’s important win. The ball surely hit Raheem Sterling in the back – but was he wise to have turned it? – then the elbow but that hardly justified a spot kick.
City’s angry manager Manuel Pellegrini was legitimately up in arms and referred to the previous meeting between the teams at White Hart Lane where he insisted Clattenburg himself had given two offside goals against his team.
I reported that game and felt Spurs deserved their victory on the day, but felt as many did that City themselves scored the opener from an offside position.
Leicester, after their romantic achievements this season, are by no means down and out and their ensuing fixture list looks somewhat less burdensome than those of Spurs and Arsenal.
I would still be delighted to see them come out virtually from nowhere to win the Premiership, but with Manchester United falling pitifully away, it will be fascinating to watch Leicester’s battle with the two North London clubs. How will it end?
In December 1935 Aston Villa who crashed 6-0 last weekend at home to Liverpool, lost there by a six-goal margin to Arsenal.
Two major differences. First the tally was 7-1 a rather than 6-0. Secondly that whereas Liverpool’s goals were shared among a platoon of scorers, all Arsenal’s that day were scored by just one man, their centre forward Ted Drake, who also hit the bar. And in time was destined to be the first manager to win the First Division with Chelsea, twenty years later.
So often bruised and battered on the field, Drake’s playing career came to an abrupt end with a heavy fall at Reading. Whom he would proceed successfully to manage before he went to Chelsea. Put on three piece suits and turned down his previous somewhat raucous jollity.