Even though Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson required eight stitches and eight minutes of treatment after being studded in the chin by Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, Gary Neville and a few former players-turned-pundits, claimed that the red card dished out to Mane was harsh and unjustified.
As the Daily Mail reported on Saturday, Neville stated:‘ It’s one of those I don’t think he needed to give a red card, it wasn’t expected and I think he’s got it wrong. How many times this season do you see a foot high, when a player goes with their head and the player gets there first and the foot goes into the chest. You very rarely see a red card for it, you might get a yellow.’
As quoted above, Gary Neville cited previous refereeing decisions to back up his point; and pointed out the inconsistency of these decisions. But instead of criticizing those wrong decisions, where a player isn’t sent off for a high boot, he criticized referee Jon Moss for making the correct one.
Former Arsenal star, Thierry Henry agreed saying: ‘I think I would have gone for it, it’s an unfortunate 50/50 for the goalkeeper. The referee saw the player down and that played on his mind, sometimes it can play on your mind. The goalkeeper had to go for it, the player had to go for it and if that happened in midfield it wouldn’t have been a red. Did he give a red straight away or did he wait and see what happened with the goalkeeper?’ (Daily Mail)
The problem with Henry’s statement is that he is using the fact that he, “would have gone for it” to justify what was obviously a red card offense. Henry should have concluded that even though he would have gone for the ball as Mane did, he ought to have been sent off as Mane was. Mane had to go for the ball, it’s true, but he had to go for it with his head or not at all.
And this is the problem many fans have with former players being pundits. Objectivity flies out of the window because of their personal experience. Instead of calling it how it is, they call it how they’d like it to be; or they call it based on how it was called back in their day, right or wrong.
To his credit, former Liverpool defender Jaime Carragher disagreed with his colleagues though admitting it took him a while to do so.
‘It’s a red card. I didn’t initially think it was, I thought there was a coming together in a 50/50. People will say “he had his eyes on the ball” but that doesn’t matter. Sadio Mane hasn’t tried to do him but if you don’t get there and your boot is that high you get a red card for excessive force. I took some convincing and I didn’t think so on first viewing, but Jon Moss got it right. It was difficult for Mane, the ball was there and he had to go for it but he’s suffered the consequences.’
Unfortunately Jaime Carragher was in the minority as most of his fellow pundits sided with Gary Neville and Thierry Henry.
The influence of the media on the referees is something that has not been tangibly quantified and indeed it would be difficult to do so, but one has to wonder if Jon Moss has that decision to make again; would he stick to the proper interpretation of the rules, or would he kowtow to the mostly negative reaction to his decision? Only time will tell.