Liverpool’s calamitous 5-nil loss to Manchester City on Saturday was overshadowed by an incident that has divided a host of high-profile pundits.
Of course, by now you will know that this incident involved Sadio Mané. The fantasy football favourite (who selfishly cost me 2 points) was shown a straight red card by referee Jon Moss after his reckless takedown of Manchester City goalkeeper, Ederson, which forced a nine-and-a-half-minute stoppage.
A clever lobbed ball from Reds defender Joel Matip set Sadio Mané into a race with goalkeeper, Ederson, which resulted in both players clashing on the edge of the box. The Senegalese winger stretched to retrieve the ball from the air as Ederson – who protected his net gallantly – lead with his head. The result was a concussed Manchester City goalkeeper and an apoplectic away end.
"Nobody wants red cards they ruin games."
Well, Mané shouldn't have done it. His fault, not the referee's for having to make the decision. pic.twitter.com/vzstRZtwfz
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) September 9, 2017
Whose fault was it?
Ask Gary Linekar, Ian Wright or Alan Shearer and all three will tell you that Mané had every right to make a challenge for the ball. However, that’s not very surprising when we consider all three pundits spent their entire football careers perched on the edge of their opposition’s box.
Shearer told his Match of the Day colleagues:
“Personally, I would want and expect my player to go for that ball, all day long, I prefer to see red cards for intent and deliberate violent conduct.”
As I’m sure Shearer knows, Fifa’s Laws Of The Game for 2017-18 defines “serious foul play” as “a tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force of brutality.”
If you are struggling to imagine what “excessive force of brutality” looks like, may I refer you to the following video:
Okay, I jest. But while I can see where Shearer is coming from, I don’t buy the argument that a challenge is okay if a player’s “eyes are on the ball.”
Whatever happened to peripheral vision? Surely, like us mere mortals, football players can look at one object while anticipating another? Peripheral vision gives players the apparatus to score goals, defend against oncoming opponents and move with the ball without looking at it.
Imagine the scene: you’re out for dinner with a friend, partner or bit-on-the-side, and you want to sate your thirst while in deep conversation. What do you do? Of course, you maintain eye contact and use your peripheral vision to pick up the glass at the same time. Or perhaps you take a sneaky glance, gather your bearings and set your hand off in the right direction. What you don’t do is trampoline 6ft in the air and karate kick your dinner date in the head.
Liverpool fans and Twitter twats alike have argued that it was a “50/50 challenge”, and had Mané met the ball cleanly, would have had the beating of City’s keeper. But none of that matters. What matters is that his challenge for the ball constituted serious foul play – and as we know, this should mean a red card.
Such a good game ruined by the referee, Mane has every right to go for the ball. How is it his fault Ederson chose to put his head in?
— Dezil Dez (@DezilDezz) September 9, 2017
Not a red card. Mane lifts his leg but it's no danger and I actually thought before the bounce, the ball was favouring Mane.
— David Preece (@davidpreece12) September 9, 2017
Not sure about that red card. Ball there to be won, Mane had eyes on the ball.
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) September 9, 2017
Unsurprisingly, Klopp – who obviously saw the incident as an opportunity to equalise – defended his player too, telling Sky Sports: “It was unlucky, it was an accident. The goalkeeper comes out, Sadio wants the ball. To get a red card in a game like this is really unlucky.”
You’re right, Jurgen, Mané was really unlucky to have not known that flying through the air like Mr.Miyagi – while aware of another player running towards him – would result in a heavily bandaged cheek. My only guess is that the Liverpool player watched tapes of Claudio Bravo and thought that Man City’s goalkeeper would jump, flap and miss. If he did think this, he may have a valid point.
The lesson here is very simple: if you think someone is going for the same ball as you, don’t lead in their direction, at head height, with your foot. Whether it “ruins the game” or not, as Gary Neville so sympathetically remarked, someone WILL get hurt.