We are only four weeks into the new season, but already the Premier League have had to ‘soften’ their new handball rule. There has been a massive outcry from fans, and pundits alike, who have been left furious with multiple handball decisions in the games from the opening few weeks.
The new rule, which was brought in for this season, states that any contact made with the ball and hand will be penalised. However, with it not being well received by the footballing world, in general, it is set to be changed. So, let’s take a look at the controversial decisions that have led to the decision.
Robin Koch: Liverpool vs Leeds United
Leeds United’s first three minutes back in the Premier League, after a 16-year absence, were marred by a controversial handball against debutant defender Robin Koch. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah’s shot deflected off the German’s thigh and onto his hand, and in line with the new rules, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. The Egyptian converted the penalty kick, which proved pivotal, as the Reds, who are the favourites to win back-to-back titles – according to the English Premier League odds – went on to win 4-3 in the seven-goal thriller. Sky Sports commentator Jamie Carragher, who used to play for the Reds, even branded the penalty decision against Marcelo Bielsa’s side ‘extremely harsh’.
Victor Lindelöf: Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
In game week two, Red Devil’s defender Victor Lindelöf fell foul to the new rule. As Palace striker Jordan Ayew attempted to flick the ball across to a teammate, inside the box, and the ball brushed the arm of the Swedish defender, who wasn’t even looking in the right direction. To make matters worse for Man United, when Ayew saw his penalty saved by their shot-stopper, David de Gea, the referee deemed the Spaniard was too far off his line, and Wilfried Zaha stepped-up to convert the retaken spot kick.
Matt Doherty: Southampton vs Tottenham
In a game plagued with Video Assistant Referee (or VAR) decisions, including the ruling-out of three goals in the first half, there was yet another controversial penalty awarded. Southampton winger Moussa Djenepo cut inside the box and attempted to find a teammate, but his cross was blocked by Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks. However, the ball shot-up off Winks’ foot and hit right-back Matt Doherty’s arm. After reviewing the pitch-side monitor, the referee pointed to the spot, and Danny Ings converted. Luckily for Spurs, they were already 5-1 up.
Joel Ward: Crystal Palace vs Everton
After benefiting from a penalty in their shock 3-1 victory for Man United, it was Palace’s turn to feel the wrath of the new rule. With the game poised at 1-1, just five minutes before half-time, left-back Lucas Digne directed a header into the box. The ball struck Joel Ward’s hand, and again, after reviewing the monitor, referee Kevin Friend awarded the Toffees a penalty. Richarlison converted the spot kick, which proved vital in the 2-1 victory, and, afterwards, Palace boss Roy Hodgson vented his frustration: “I think the rules are nonsense. And I can’t understand how we in football have allowed this rule to come into operation. It’s ruining football.”
Eric Dier: Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur
José Mourinho’s side were on the receiving end of yet another controversial call in game week three, this time against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United. Spurs were leading 1-0 when Andy Carroll’s header struck Eric Dier’s arm in the 93rd minute. Peter Bankes didn’t initially give the penalty against Dier, who had his back turned when the ball hit his arm, but after a lengthy VAR review, the Magpies were awarded the penalty. Striker Callum Wilson converted the penalty, which was just Newcastle’s first shot on target in the match. Carragher was again left furious, claiming: “It’s an absolute disgrace. An absolute joke.
“Newcastle fans will be ecstatic but everyone else in this country will be saying exactly what I’m saying and what I’m thinking.
“Eric Dier jumps for the ball, has no control of where his arms are going to be, there’s a header half a yard away from him, it hits him on the back of the arm, he has no idea what’s going on.
“This is a joke, whether it’s the Premier League, the FA, FIFA, [Pierluigi] Collina, whoever is involved in this, stop it because you’re ruining football for everybody.”