Ref Review – Mark Clattenburg – Fulham 1 v 1 Chelsea (EPL – 09/04/2012)
Our Ref Review this week comes from @BobbyHare, who is making his debut on Debatable Decisions. He takes a look at Mark Clattenburg’s performance in the draw between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage.
Not a Premier League match seems to go by without a debate over the (in)competence of officials. Chelsea arrived at Craven Cottage fresh from a last minute smash-and-grab against strugglers Wigan Athletic on Saturday, in which they had benefitted from two hugely fortuitous offside decisions. While tonight’s game contained no such controversy, a few of Mark Clattenburg’s decisions still need to be examined. His decision-making wasn’t always accurate, but overall he probably managed to referee the fixture to a fair conclusion.
General match management
Fulham-Chelsea is one of the more sedate local derbies in English football and this match was a reflection of that. The play ebbed and flowed smoothly with both sides enjoying periods of control. Clattenburg resisted the temptation to be overly officious and he generally only whistled when necessary. The ball never spent an unreasonable time out of play and any stoppages were brief, with the action always swiftly recommencing. Clattenburg appeared to communicate well with players on both teams, meaning that dissent was virtually non-existant; though this may also have been a result of Ashley Cole’s absence.
“I thought this was Monday Night Football, not WWE?”
After a quarter of an hour, Clattenburg delayed the taking of a Fulham corner so he could take Fernando Torres and Aaron Hughes to task over the wrestling taking place in the box. It’s an interesting one, because such physical grappling outside the box invariably leads to free kicks, yet in the area referees are extremely reluctant to make a decision. Naturally, Clattenburg turned a blind eye to all jostling as the subsequent corner came in, but he can’t really be criticised for that, since it goes on in matches the length and breadth of the country. At least he was being consistent!
A quarter of the way into the game, Chelsea’s Raul Meireles, complete with his abysmal haircut, was booked thanks to an accumulation of fouls. A moment earlier Clattenburg had given the Portuguese midfielder his final warning. Replays showed that Meireles had been harshly judged, with John Arne Riise slipping on the greasy surface under no contact. On reflection, it was an easy one for Clattenburg to get wrong from the angle he viewed the incident, and Meireles’s litany of previous fouls probably influenced his decision. He didn’t deserve a yellow for that challenge, but he paid the price for persistent fouling.
Chelsea penalty claim – handball by Kelly
Ryan Bertrand, who filled in seamlessly for Ashley Cole, struck a shot against Stephen Kelly’s right hand after half an hour. Despite the claims, Clattenburg was rightly unmoved. The ball indisputably struck the Fulham defender, but he made a clear and obvious motion to pull his arm back towards his body. It’s not a penalty every time the ball strikes a hand or arm.
Chelsea penalty – foul by… erm… somebody
An uninspired opening 45 minutes came to life just before half time as Salomon Kalou was felled in the area. Frank Lampard rammed home the resulting penalty with real conviction, but there was confusion as to why Clattenburg had made the decision. It initially seemed that Danny Murphy had been penalised for a brainless slide on the Ivorian. Granted, contact was miminal (possibly even non existent) but Murphy could have taken the decision out of Clattenburg’s hands by being sensible and just jockeying his man instead.
Shortly after half time it came to light that Clattenburg had informed Murphy that he had not actually given the penalty for an infringement by him. I find this completely perplexing, since the alternative is that Stephen Kelly made the foul. Replays show that there was a coming together between Kelly and Kalou, but it was completely accidental. The only way contact could have been avoided is if Kelly had abandoned his defensive responsibilities and stopped running. Just as a handball can’t be given every time the ball strikes a hand or arm, a foul can’t be given each time there is physical contact between two players.
I’ve concluded that Clattenburg was right to blow up for a penalty because an infringement did take place (by Murphy, in my eyes), but he charged the wrong man for the offence. Justice was done, but the reasoning to arrive at the correct decision was hugely flawed. So, I guess, he muddled his way to the correct decision.
Chelsea penalty claim – push by Hangeland on Lampard
Five minutes into the second half, Chelsea were denied a certain penalty as Brede Hangeland shoved Lampard in the back after the England man had stolen a march on him. The replay appeared to show Clattenburg in a good position, which made the non-award mystifying. My theory is that the referee had the first half penalty in his mind, along with the protests of Murphy ringing in his ears, and he tried to even up the score. It’s not right, but it’s human nature.
The final forty minutes of the match continued with reasonably little incident. The fractured nature of the play was down to both teams’ inability to play with any real incision in the final third. Fulham gradually grew into the game and deservedly grabbed an equaliser through a relatively subdued Clint Dempsey. On the balance of possession, territory and chances, the final score of 1-1 was perfect. Clattenburg had little to do in the second half other than to mete out stonewall yellow cards to Jon Obi Mikel and Danny Murphy for professional fouls.
Ref Rating – 6/10
As I’ve intimated above, I don’t feel Mark Clattenburg’s decision-making was greatly accurate over the course of the game. His general management of the game was good, but he erred on key individual decisions. For the penalty he did award, he came to the right decision but the thought process that brought him to that point was confused. In the second period, he failed to give Chelsea an even more obvious penalty, and given Lampard’s potency from the spot, it could be argued that Chelsea were denied two key points in the race for Champions League football. That said, Chelsea got two bonus points at the weekend – maybe these decisions do even themselves out.http://www.debatabledecisions.com/ref-review-mark-clattenburg-fulham-1-v-1-chelsea-epl-09042012