In one of the strangest sequences you’ll see in the Premier League this year, Arsenal scored the first goal against Manchester United on Thursday with the goalkeeper at the goal line in a fetal position on his back to play.
Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe scored with a shot into a practically empty net, but referee Martin Atkinson initially disallowed the goal. A foul was supposed to have been committed on Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.
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But the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) reviewed the play and saw that De Gea was actually bitten by his own teammate Fred and immediately fell into agony, turning his back on the action. And since the referee at no time whistled the dead play, the VAR alerted the referee and the goal remained standing.
Check out the work below:
Was it fair play from Arsenal?
Arsenal did nothing wrong on the play and had the right to continue playing and shooting.
Although they weren’t required to do so, the Gunners could have also kicked the ball offside to allow De Gea to receive treatment rather than shooting into a defenseless arc.
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Some on social media argued that Arsenal should have allowed Man United to come down onto the field and score a goal to even the score as a matter of good sportsmanship. That was not happening.
Many have also criticized De Gea falling too easily and not trying to play along, at least giving himself a chance to save if he could pull it off.
Should the referee have whistled play dead?
The referee is not required to whistle, except if there is a head injury, when players can receive immediate treatment.
But the referee also has complete discretion to blow up the game and Atkinson probably would have done it if he had had more time.
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“Normally when the goalkeeper falls, we should stop the game, but mistakes happen,” Man United midfielder Bruno Fernandes said after the game. “Players make mistakes. I don’t know if the referee made one.”
He can’t help but wonder if the referee had this instance on the back of his neck when Arsenal had a penalty call just before halftime. Replays showed defender Harry Maguire had dropped Takehiro Tomiyasu by the arm, but there was no whistle and the same VAR who had no choice but to let Arsenal’s goal fail to signal a clear and obvious mistake.
The debate around this goal will go on for a few days, at least if the reaction from social media is any indication:
So fair play doesn’t exist?
– Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) December 2, 2021
The annoying thing is that Atkinson was about to blow his whistle and then didn’t bother.
– Yes Lloyd (@ SmnLlyd5) December 2, 2021
It sure hurt when Fred stood on his ankle, but De Gea has to do his best to stay up until the ball goes out of play. It couldn’t have been that bad if he had gotten up a minute later. I’m not sure how United can argue that the goal should not have been kept.
– Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonESPN) December 2, 2021
I’ll tell you what, Smith Rowe is lucky Gary Neville or Roy Keane don’t play. I’d be in rigorous treatment if it were.
– Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) December 2, 2021
Your goalkeeper must have at least one dislocation to fall like this, there, with all that.
– Rupert Fryer (@Rupert_Fryer) December 2, 2021
Being stomped on obviously hurts a lot, but this man lay down and faced the crowd in a fetal position. https://t.co/zgSLRMYEIk
– Mark Yesilevskiy (@MarkWhyy) December 2, 2021
Fred dirtying De Gea. United players protesting. I’m crying
– Renato (@rehnato) December 2, 2021
Yes, sorry Manchester United. There was no hiss. And you can’t foul / injure your own goalkeeper to stop an opportunity. #Arsenal correctly conceded the goal. VAR apparently did the job.
– The short fuse (@TheShortFuse) December 2, 2021
Remember that Bielsa and Leeds United, the morally correct football club in the world, returned a goal in this circumstance? And how none of the fans, not even me on the north stand, disagreed with that at all.
– Amitai Winehouse (@ awinehouse1) December 2, 2021
I would have let Man U run to the other end and score 🥴
– 𝐓𝐫𝐨𝐲 𝐓𝐨𝐰𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐝 (@ Towno10) December 2, 2021
Fred fouls his own goalkeeper to allow Arsenal to score is absolutely the next level Fred
– Football Ramble (@FootballRamble) December 2, 2021
I am surprised that it is given; There is no legal justification for not giving it, but Atkinson should have exploded 100% when he saw De Gea fall. It did not. He waited to see what happened. Once it happens, you can’t stop giving it. Really poor reffing, but from the VAR
– Jonny Singer (@Jonny_Singer) December 2, 2021
It is a curious goal but one of the easiest to ask for a referee with the support of the VAR.
– Alvaro Romeo (@Alvaro_Romeo) December 2, 2021
Just when you think the mess at Man United couldn’t get any worse, they go and outdo themselves.
– Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) December 2, 2021
There was no way that goal hadn’t stood. Well done Atkinson and I guess VAR. 100% the right decision #MUNARDS
– Liam Drury (@ liamdrury4) December 2, 2021
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.