April 19, 2017

10 Questions and Answers on Viktor Kassai's Real-Bayern Performance

Viktor Kassai's performance in yesterday's Champions League Quarterfinal return leg between Real Madrid and FC Bayern München was much talked of. We have summarized the most important situations: 10 Questions and Answers.

Vidal & Casemiro
(1st half, 2nd half, thanks to our reader RayHD)

Was Arturo Vidal's first yellow card in minute 5 justified?

Yes, it definitely was. Vidal recklessly tackled his opponent without any chance to play the ball and made unfair contact at his backheel using stretched studs. The contact was low, the intensity only moderate. But still: The yellow card was compulsory and the absolute minimum in this situation.

Should Arturo Vidal have been sent off earlier?

The decision not to send off Vidal in minute 48 for his late tackle against Casemiro can be supported. The contact type did not clearly suggest that it was reckless. In 82', Vidal had luck once again: After shortly holding his opponent, he could not have complaint too much if this had been deemed as stopping a promising attack. Though, there were also many arguments against it: The distance to the goal was huge, many defenders were in front of the ball, the holding rather light. Yet, a final warning communicated verbally and non-verbally would have had a desirable signal effect in both situations.

Should Casemiro have been sent off, too?

Some people argued Casemiro should have been sent off in the penalty situation: He more or less stopped a promising attack when Robben was dangerously entering the penalty area from the left wing. However, he clearly attempted to play the ball. And as UEFA is recommending their referees to refrain from issuing yellow cards for stopping a promising attack inside the penalty area if it was a genuine attempt to play the ball, it was fully correct not to send Casemiro off. In minute 80, Casemiro once again tackled Robben - this was bordering to reckless, but also here, there were some arguments against it such as the contact type. A 2nd yellow card was not impossible, but not mandatory either. Kassai maybe had the Vidal incident in 48' in mind: He already let a Bayern midfielder live whose tackle had been close to reckless - so maybe he felt here he had to do the same.

Was Arturo Vidal's 2nd yellow card correct?

No, from our point of view it was not. Not because Vidal played the ball - yes he did, but he also fouled his opponent with his trailing leg. However, we consider this as careless only and nothing more. For sure, Vidal somehow repeatedly infringed the laws. So it was understandable and predictable that Kassai could lose the patience with time. But... this tackle was definitely the wrong moment to do so. We can look at the tackle with tenfold slowmoed replays, from a dozen of different angles - but it is also worth to consider the big picture: This challenge cannot be enough for a 2nd yellow card in such a game and at such a level.

The Penalty Area Decisions

Was the penalty in favour of Bayern correct?

After watching Casemiro's tackle against Robben inside the penalty area from multiple angles, I came to the conclusion that I have no idea what is the most correct decision. Casemiro did step on Robben's forward section of his foot. So far so good. But what did Robben do? He obviously anticipated any form of contact - the replays from behind the goals show that at the moment of the contact he is already about to open his mouth to yell out of (alleged?) pain. Shortly after the contact, his body started to become stiff, his hands went up, he fell like the so-called dying swan. Having landed on the turf, Robben immediately looked towards the referee - that is not the reaction you would expect from a player who just got suddenly tackled to the ground. Kassai had to cope with a similar situation in the group stage when he officiated Manchester City's home win over FC Barcelona - and wrongly cautioned an attacker for simulation instead of awarding the justified penalty kick. Therefore, Kassai - with the Manchester incident probably in the back of his mind - faced the agony of choice which is well mirrored by the small delay in his decision: A probably punishable contact paired with or followed by a relatively theatrical descend at least close to simulation. This is what our user RayHD called a "damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation" - and he is totally right. Awarding the penalty kick seems to be the safer option in such situations - Kassai should be supported.

Should Real have got a penalty?

No, but a sending-off for simulation. In the 98th minute, it was once again Casemiro who was challenging the referee: In a duel with Jerome Boateng, he went to ground inside the penalty area. Watching the replays, Casemiro should have been sent off with a 2nd yellow card for an (actually) clear case of simulation: He threw himself into Jerome Boateng, sought the contact, found it and started to fall early without any visible reason - and of course followed by immediately looking towards the referee.

The Offside Goals

Unfortunately, three goals were scored from offside positions.

Was Bayern's 1:2 illegally scored?

Bayern's 1:2 should not have counted: Lewandowski, who was in a tight offside position at the moment of the chest pass, interfered with Real defender Nacho and challenged him for the ball. Difficult to spot for the assistant referee, and even more difficult to interpret. A comprehensible mistake.

Was Real's 2:2 legal?

No. The offside in the 2:2 goal was not completely easy to spot (enhanced by the optical error called reversed flash lag effect). However, mastering this optical error has to be expected from an assistant referee at this level. Assistant referee György Ring maybe was distracted by Daniel Carvajal who was about to sprint into the penalty area on the right wing. Most likely he shifted his attention on him (it was more probable that he would receive the pass). This might explain the error.

Was the offside error in Real's 3:2 evitable?

The clear offside in the 3:2 is probably the offside goal error that is most understandable: Assistant referee Vencel Tóth had to stand still for a long time as the Bayern defensive row was static. When Marcelo brought through the row in high pace, the assistant had to accelerate from 0 to 100 (so to speak). No surprise that in the end he was wrongly positioned by 2-3 metres. As assistants are no supermen, he cannot be blamed.

What does remain?

A match that was significantly influenced by incorrect refereeing decisions. But - not all decisions were black-and-white. While some were clear, others left rooms for interpretation after watching several replays.

For sure, this performance did not meet the requirements and expectations put forward by UEFA, the clubs, the football community and, last but not least, the referee team themselves. Viktor Kassai and his teammates probably did not find much sleep last night - hopefully, they will cope well with this negative night and return onto the pitch in their usual strength very soon.

What should not remain unmentioned: Mistakes were always, are always and will always be human. Nobody is perfect. And s**t happens! Only phrases? Maybe. But they are very true.


  1. I fully agree with you

  2. Excellent article, Niclas (et al.?).
    My only disagreement concerns the 3-2 goal. In my mind, the AR has to be ready for those situations; he is responsible.

    1. Thanks, Emil. The question is whether we can expect from an assistant to accelerate from standing still (which he has to do per law) to Marcelo's speed. To keep up with Marcelo, he either has to start a second earlier (which he may not do, as he has to stay on the 2nd last defender height) or he has to be quicker than Marcelo. Difficult.

    2. We routinely expect referees to be better than players - more in shape, with more stamina, faster sprinting, etc. It is obviously an impossible situation, but that's what we expect.

    3. I agree, here I would like to quote Mr Busacca though (not often that I tend to do this): "We are not God" - being as fast as Marcelo who is in full speed is simply not possible if you are / have to be static. Usain Bolt would maybe managed to be on the line, but noone else, I guess.

  3. Very nice article.
    It is important to understand that mistakes will happen. This is the correct way to cope with them - not demonize the referees, but rather analyze what went wrong and what could be done to prevent these mistakes from reoccurring.

  4. Off topic:
    BVB-Monaco was the last international game for the Austrian observer Horst Brummeier who exceeded the age limit. He will be replaced by Thomas Einwaller (2005-2011 FIFA referee, e.g. Olympic Games 2008, 3 UCL games).

    1. Very interesting thanks. The age limit for observers, if I'm not wrong, should be 70. So, with Brummeier, another well known name who should leave the list is Jozef Marko. French Michel Vautrot as well. If you have info about new names for those and other countries, please don't hesitate to share them with us.

    2. Yeah, actually it is 70 but Brummeier is already 71, so UEFA seems not to be very strict with the limit.

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