FanPost

Positive and negative referee interventions, and one reason why I still feel we were cheated at Wembley


In 2010, I witnessed a long-range effort from Frank Lampard crash into the crossbar and fall over the line of Manuel Neuer's goal during the World Cup tie between England and Germany, only for the goal not to be given. Up to this point in the match, England had been abjectly awful- yet the goal would have put us level, might have put some momentum behind us and could've changed the whole game. Ultimately, England went on to lose that particular match. Though the sense of injustice stung a little, I walked away from the game feeling that England's failure was entirely in their own hands and they could only blame themselves. The reason? The intervention of the officials on that day was 'negative' (in the sense of not having a discernable impact)- it merely prevented the existing status quo from changing. It left everyone on the pitch in no better or worse situation than before.

The same idea applies to my feelings on the Stoke game in the last half of the season. Spurs were robbed of two clear goals that we legitimately scored. By why did we deserve to lose? Because after these calls, we were in exactly in the same position as before- we had the same objectives, and we could play our game in the same way. The tone and nature of the game hadn't changed. And we failed to overcome our opponents in the same fashion again. This shortcoming, the squad can in hindsight be blamed for.

Comapring this incident to what happened on Sunday against Chelsea, it's possible to see in the latter by contrast an example of 'positive' intervention (in the sense of having a discernable impact). The phantom goal changed the status quo of the match, in the most literal sense of the scoreline. It forced changes out of Spurs; a change to a more attacking 4-4-2 which allowed Chelsea to boss the midfield. It is impossible to view the bad call as just an unfortunate isolated incident in the match which doesn't detract from our overall shortcomings. Positive interventions affect games. They leave teams feeling shortchanged as they actively tip the balance of play. This is why it is a commonly held piece of received wisdom that refs should never give goals they aren't sure about- when in doubt, just let things continue as they were. If you can be accused of anything after the game, it'll be a negative intervention on the game. This is one reason why the outcome was not necessarily Spurs' to define, and why I still feel cheated.

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