Roma’s penalty against Juventus after a disallowed goal was the right outcome but for the wrong reason

Roma’s Jose Mourinho is justified in being upset that referee Daniele Orsato did not delay his whistle to allow a Tammy Abraham goal to occur in the immediate aftermath of a penalty committed by Juventus. However, no harm occurred to his side after one works through the complex series of events because a penalty kick to Roma would have still been the final outcome should Referee Orsato had delayed his whistle. 

Here’s what happened:

  • In the 41st minute, Juventus turned the ball over in the midfield resulting in a quick counterattack for Roma. 
  • Juventus’ Danilo makes a last chance, deliberate save by sliding in and tapping the ball away from Abraham while in the penalty area. 
  • The ball goes directly to Roma’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right side of the goal area who is very close to being in an offside position though it is ultimately confirmed by VAR that Juventus’ Manuel Locatelli kept him onside. 
  • Juventus’ goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny comes out of his goal to challenge Roma’s Mkhitaryan and is to commit a foul in the proces, thus denying Mkhitaryan an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (“DOGSO”). 
  • As Mkhitaryan falls to the ground, he makes a sweeping action with his right hand towards the ball. 
  • Immediately Referee Orsato blows his whistle for a penalty against Juventus which, by law, stops the play. 
  • However, immediately after the whistle, the ball falls to Abraham who puts it into the back of the net.  
  • The on-field decision is a penalty for Roma and a yellow card to Juventus’ Szczesny for DOGSO. 
  • Because Referee Orsato blew the whistle BEFORE the goal was scored, VAR protocols only allow for the video assistant referee to (1) review whether Juventus’ Locatelli kept Roma’s Mkhitaryan onside before the penalty challenge by goalkeeper Szczesny occurred; and, (2) whether there is a clear and obvious error in the giving of the penalty itself. 

Now that you have the facts, here’s the breakdown of how this complex multi-layered decision, that occurred within a 4-second time frame in the 41st minute, should have played out. When we follow the proverbial bouncing ball through the various twists and turns and refereeing decision we find that had everything been done correctly, the result would have been the same. 

The referee should have waited to blow his whistle

VAR protocols instruct referees and assistant referees to delay the flag or whistle for an offense where there is “a very clear attacking situation when a player is about to score a goal or has a clear run/into towards the opponents’ penalty area”

There’s no denying the fact, even Orsato instantly recognized it himself immediately after blowing the whistle, that he should have delayed his whistle to allow Abraham the opportunity to score the goal. The most likely explanation for why he did not delay was that it is very rare for referees to delay or apply advantage in the penalty area when a penalty offense has been committed as the penalty is almost always the most advantageous call at that moment to an attacking side. Orsato was zoned in on the penalty incident itself and missed the forest for the trees failing to recognize in the moment that the penalty decision was not the most advantageous call for Roma. 

That being said, and without any ability by law to overturn his call, nor the VAR being able to overturn his decision on the field because of VAR protocols, Orsato was required to continue with the penalty kick and yellow card to Juventus’ goalkeeper Szczesny for DOGSO after a check complete from the VAR confirming Mkhitaryan was not in an offside position before the penalty incident. 

Abraham’s goal would still not have counted

Orsato blowing his whistle might seem like a grave injustice for Roma. However, the situation is more complicated than that. Even had Orsate not blown, thus giving Abraham the opportunity to score, the goal wouldnot have ended up counting. In that instance VAR would have recommended an on-field review to Orsato to overturn the goal decision and restart with a penalty kick for Roma. 

Why? Because after the penalty committed by Szczesny, Roma’s Mkhitaryan, while falling to the ground, commits a handling offense by sweeping the ball with his hand which would have negated Abraham’s goal.

It is a handling offense by Mkhitaryan because he deliberately touches the ball with his hand by moving the hand towards the ball. This is where some may argue that based on the context of the foul by Szczesny he was falling and it was natural movement of his arm, but that doesn’t hold up under close inspection. It is clear from the replay angle from behind the goal line that Roma’s Mkhitaryan swept his right hand towards the ball during the fall, making it a deliberate handling offense. 

Laws of the game are clear that it is not a handling offense “when a player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to support the body, [but if the hand/arm is] extended laterally or vertically away from the body” then it is a handling offense. 

Since it occurred AFTER the penalty but BEFORE the goal, the goal would not have been allowed but instead the same outcome given by Orsato – penalty kick for Roma and yellow card to Juventus’ goalkeeper Szczesny. Mistakes shouldn’t happen from referees, but in this case Orsato had the good fortune to have the reality of what came next bail him out. Not that that was any comfort to Mourinho

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