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This question was inspired by something that happened during a Serie A match between Napoli and Milan yesterday. A defender handles the ball to prevent it from crossing the goal line: advantage is played, an opponent shows up, collects the ball and scores (here is the relevant GIF). The defender was issued a yellow card. Now I am wondering: why is it a yellow card instead of a red card?

The way I see it, there is a difference between denying a goal to the opposing team (which can only be done by handling the ball on the goal line) and denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to the opposing team. This said, Law 12 reads:

If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution / send off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution / send off must be issued when the ball is next out of play, except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour. (Law 12)

This is NOT relevant to our situation, because the defender denied a goal and not an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. The following paragraph should be applied instead:

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player [...] handles the ball [...] in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a goal (Law 12)

This is where I am questioning the referee's decision. It should not matter if the attacking team ended up scoring anyway: a goal has still been prevented, because what was scored next was another, different goal. So I think the right decision should have been to let the goal stand, and send the defending player off instead of just cautioning him.

Am I right, or is there anything in the Laws I am missing?

  • There are now three answers to this question. Please consider accepting one - if none are suitable, please leave commentary on each answer stating any problems you have with it. – studro Sep 15 '16 at 11:00
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If advantage is played for a DOGSO offence, and a goal is scored as a result, then a goal has not been denied to the advantaged team.

Therefore, the player is not sent off for DOGSO (given a red card) but instead cautioned (given a yellow card) for unsporting behaviour.

This is precisely in line with the guidance in IFAB Law 12 for this specific case:

..., except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

Therefore, the referee was correct in Law to caution the player, regardless of the sequence of actions (i.e. it doesn't matter whether the hand-to-ball or the goal happened first) because a goal was still scored.

  • I'm going to disagree with one element of this answer. If the goal was scored, and then the player handled the ball, there should be no caution. This is because the ball is out of play as soon as the goal is scored and it is not an offence to deliberately handle the ball when it is out of play. – studro Sep 2 '16 at 6:16
  • @studro it is not an offence as handling the ball, but it is an offence as unsporting behaviour. – Nij Sep 2 '16 at 6:40
  • What exactly is unsporting about handling the ball when it is out of play? I believe the caution was given because the referee believed the ball was still in play when the defender handled it. If the ball is out of play, and it is the defender's restart (ie. a kick-off), they are entitled to handle it. – studro Sep 2 '16 at 7:01
  • The defender believed the ball was in play, and their deliberate handling was done with intent to prevent a goal being scored. That's unsporting behaviour - regardless of the fact it wouldn't have stopped a goal. The same as if he'd tried to punch someone. It doesn't matter that he missed and therefore didn't actually make contact, it's still violent action and would be sanctioned. – Nij Sep 2 '16 at 7:16
  • Tactical misconduct is generally not punished based on intent. If a player fouls an opponent who is away on a promising attack, they are cautioned, even if they intended to win the ball. It's impossible to deny a goal if the ball is out of play, so it's impossible to attempt to deny a goal if the ball is out of play. – studro Sep 2 '16 at 8:03
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It is very important to note that the fourth goal was recorded as Romagnoli's own goal, which means the goal was already scored before the defender (Romagnoli) tried to handle the ball to prevent it from crossing the goal line. It had already crossed the line bouncing off him before he touched it. Even if he had not handled it, the goal would have been scored. The sequence of the actions is

  1. The ball was bounced off him.
  2. The goal was scored as his own goal (Advantage was not played).
  3. He tried to prevent the goal with his hand not knowing the goal had crossed the goal line. In other words, the handling foul was committed after the goal crossed the goal line.
  4. The referee issued a yellow card to him.

The linked article clearly shows the record as follows:

Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol (Vlad Chiriches 89’), Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Milik, Mertens (Insigne 78’)

Goals: Milik (18’, 33’), Callejon (74’), Romagnoli O.G. (90’+2)

AC Milan: Donnarumma; Abate (Calabria 80’), Gomez, Romagnoli, De Sciglio; Kucka (red 75’), Montolivo, Bonaventura; Suso (Lapadula 86’), Bacca (Jose Sosa 80’), Niang (red 87’)

Goals: Niang (51’), Suso (55’)

(Emphasis mine)

There is no reason why the law you stated in the question can't be applied. It was the right decision to issue a yellow card to him.

  • Yesterday's match did inspire my question, but it is independent of what actually happened on the field of play. Even if it was counted as Romagnoli's own goal, what I'd like to know is: should have he been cautioned or sent off, in the hypothetical situation the ball had not crossed the line before he touched it with his hands? And if the correct answer is a yellow card, what is the flaw in my argument? – Labba Aug 28 '16 at 17:41
  • @FilippoLaBarbera Well, your argument is based on the fact that you didn't know it was his own goal saying advantage was played. No, there was no advantage. There is no flaw in the Law. The goal was scored anyway and why would the referee send off the defender which is against the Law? If the goal is not successful, the defender will be sent-off. It is clearly stated in the Laws. It all depends on whether the goal is prevented by handling. – user10632 Aug 28 '16 at 17:49
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There are a number of points in your question that I will address separately.

When advantage is played on a DOGSO situation, and a goal is scored, should the offender always be cautioned?

From what I can gather, the first question is whether attempted but unsuccessful denial of a goal or denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity by committing an offence should always result in a caution for unsporting behaviour, or whether the referee can choose to not caution the player.

From Law 12, Section 3, Laws of the Game:

Advantage

If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution / send off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution / send off must be issued when the ball is next out of play, except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

So if the player would have been sent-off for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity or goal had play been stopped, the send-off is instead downgraded to a caution for unsporting behaviour. By the letter of the law, this caution is mandatory.

In previous editions of the Laws, this caution was discretionary (notice the wording change - must vs may).

p. 132 of the 2015/16 FIFA Laws of the Game:

If the referee applies advantage during an obvious goalscoring opportunity and a goal is scored directly, despite the opponent’s handling the ball or fouling an opponent, the player cannot be sent off but he may still be cautioned.

It will be interesting to see whether this was an intentional change or an oversight - there have already been a number of errors in this edition of the Laws, as it has been a significant revision and was undertaken in a very short period of time. Some have been amended in the FAQ (eg. see Q6 and Q7 here - reading the Laws without the FAQ initially implied a direct free kick rather than an indirect free kick restart for dissent) and others have not (as shown in this answer).

This is where I am questioning the referee's decision. It should not matter if the attacking team ended up scoring anyway: a goal has still been prevented, because what was scored next was another, different goal. So I think the right decision should have been to let the goal stand, and send the defending player off instead of just cautioning him.

The second element, is whether the player should be sent-off, for example, if they handle the ball on the line, the ball bounces outwards and then another shot is taken - ie. the first goal is denied illegally, but the second one is scored.

Returning to the quote from Law 12, Section 3, Laws of the Game:

... except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour

I believe there has been editorial oversight here - how it should have read is:

... except when the denial of a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour

The reason the send-off is impossible if the goal is scored, is due to advantage clause in Law 5, Section 3 of the Laws of the Game:

The referee:

...

  • allows play to continue when an infringement or offence occurs and the non-offending team will benefit from the advantage and penalises the infringement or offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time or within a few seconds

When a player commits an offence that denies a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, there are only two possible outcomes:

  • the denial results in a goal, meaning the anticipated advantage has ensued. The player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour, and a kick-off is taken by the conceding team.
  • the denial does not result in a goal, meaning the anticipated advantage has not ensued. Therefore, the referee must award a free kick or penalty kick, and sends-off the player for denial of a goal or goalscoring opportunity (unless the offence occurred in the penalty area, is a genuine attempt for the ball and was not pushing or holding, in which case the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour - see Law 12, Section 3, Denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity ).

The sending-off punishment is mostly restorative in nature. If the denial results in a goal, even if it isn't the original attempt, there is no need to give the scoring team the advantage of an extra player. That is why the offence results in a caution rather than a send-off. The caution is given to deter the player from committing further tactical fouls in future.

In the situation you linked, it has been noted in other answers that the player actually handled the ball after it had crossed the line. The reason the player was cautioned was because the referee believed that the player deliberately handled the ball while it was in play, and had advantage not ensued (ie. by a goal being scored), he would have been sent-off.

However, since the player could not possibly have been sent-off here, since the ball was out of play when the deliberate handling occurred, the referee would have been correct to not caution the player. A verbal warning would have still been appropriate.

  • Downvoting without leaving a comment on which part of the answer needs modification does nothing to help the site. – studro Sep 13 '16 at 5:27

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