Liverpool's Luis Suarez has seen his season tally increased to 15 after an own-goal was reversed in his favour – but why did he get the benefit of a committee when Manchester City’s Alvaro Negredo did not?
On the surface of things, it seems like a mini-travesty.
During Liverpool’s 4-1 win over West Ham, Joey O’Brien was credited with an own-goal after Suarez’s shot took a massive deflection off the defender.
A few weeks earlier, Negredo’s volley went in off Sandro during City’s 6-0 thumping of Tottenham.
Both were initially given as own-goals, but the Premier League’s infamous ‘Dubious Goals Panel’ has decided that Suarez should be credited with the goal, which was his second of the match. But Negredo’s remains credited to Sandro.
The unofficial rules (because this is a vague area in FIFA’s Laws of the Game) say that a goal should be awarded to the attacking player if the initial shot is on target.
Subsequently, any on-target effort – no matter how tame or how well-placed the goalkeeper is – should be given to the attacking player, even if it takes a massive deflection, is dropped by the keeper or is hoofed into the roof of the net by a hapless defender.
That also means that shots which strike the post before going in off the goalkeeper should be given as own-goals, while a goal that comes after a keeper tips the ball on to the post is credited to the attacker.
After jinking past a couple of defenders, Suarez unleashed an effort which took a completely different trajectory after striking O’Brien. That trajectory sent the ball spinning away from a wrong-footed Jussi Jaskelaainen and into the back of the net.
Suarez’s right-foot shot appeared to have been going wide of the near post, and ended up nestling in the other corner. Yet the panel, which reviews video footage to decide who gets the credit, deemed that shot sufficient to warrant giving Suarez the goal, possibly on account of the bend on the ball, which may have taken it on target.
So it appears that the panel has been very generous with Suarez on this occasion – although given the level of skill he showed to fashion the opportunity, it is difficult to begrudge him.
Negredo, meanwhile, clearly directed his finish towards the goal. He was unmarked just outside the six-yard box when Sergio Aguero’s shot was blocked into his path. The Spain forward arcs his body into a half-volley that is headed straight down the middle of the goal, with Sandro getting a touch on the line but unable to keep it out.
But that goal has been deemed an own-goal, while Suarez’s – whose direction was questionable – has not.
The key for Negredo is that his shot took the merest of deflections off a second player – it is not obvious initially, but repeat viewings show that the ball shaved the leg of Younes Kaboul before hitting Sandro on the line.
As a result, Negredo is not deemed responsible for the shot on target, even though his shot was on target. The act responsible for the goal – the ‘assist’ as it were – is Kaboul’s intervention, even though it was the faintest of touches and had no impact on the ball’s overall direction.
Which all seems reasonable enough, until you look at the (similarly vague) rules as applied to assists.
Given the above logic, one would assume that an attacking player whose pass is intercepted or deflected by an opponent would not get the assist if the ball is subsequently knocked into the goal by a team-mate, as there has been an additional touch or touches before the ball reaches the final destination
Since FIFA started recording assists at the 1986 World Cup, the criteria has been that “the last but two holder of the ball could get an assist provided his action had decisive importance”, and that “after goals from rebounds those players were awarded an assist who had shots on target”.
Those rules were created to help distinguish between players with the same number of goals scored when deciding the Golden Boot; they are now applied to all manner of stats collectors, with practical uses including betting and Fantasy Football games.
My personal view is strict and probably would be seen as archaic – if a defending player apart from the goalkeeper touches the ball en route to goal, it should be deemed an own goal, regardless of whether the shot, header or cross is on or off target. The trajectory of the ball has been changed and is clearly responsible – to varying degrees – for the final destination of the ball. The only exception is if the goalkeeper gets the last touch and the shot was on target (which excludes the woodwork).
It is the only foolproof method and, frankly, would see a reduction in goals awarded to players who barely deserve them. It may seem harsh on the likes of Suarez on this occasion, but his shot did not go in of its own accord, so he would have no complaints.
An alternative would be to always credit the attacking player if his effort is goal-bound at departure – it can touch one player or six, but if his or her shot was originally heading between the sticks, the goal belongs to the attacker.
Until some consistency and fairness is found, we can safely say that the law is an inconsistent ass.
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