Case Study: Phil Dowd and the Final 90

Case Study # 03-2014
Date 19 Jan 2014
Competition Barclays Premier League
Fixture/Result Chelsea 3 – 1 Manchester United
Referee/Badge Phil Dowd, Select Group
At Issue The final 90 seconds of the match prove eventful as the referee deals with misconduct

As Chelsea were closing out a convincing victory over Manchester United, the stress of a difficult match (season?) started to show on the United players.  At 90′ + 1, Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard collected the ball and began moving upfield through plenty of open space.  As he did so, Manchester United center half (and captain) Vidic engaged in a “scissors-style” tackle on Hazard, making no attempt to play the ball in the process.

Referee Phil Dowd did not hesitate to show Vidic the red card and sent him off for serious foul play (might a case be made for violent conduct?).

While there isn’t much controversial about that decision, the action that followed immediately is worth further study and analysis.

As Manchester United left back Rafael challenged Chelsea winger Ramires for a ball near the touchline, he pushed the Chelsea player in the back in order to move him off the ball.  It wasn’t a serious push, but more of the type that one typically sees on the English game.  But Chelsea right back (and frequent iTOOTR contributor) Ivanovic appeared to take exception, and fouled Rafael by stepping in front of him as the United player attempted to move into position to receive a return give-and-go pass.

Referee Dowd spotted the infraction and signaled for advantage, as Manchester United retained possession of the ball.  This didn’t seem to satisfy Rafael, who can clearly be seen remonstrating with AR1 (who happened to be England’s #1 AR, Michael Mularkey).

As play continued, the referee points in the general direction of Ivanovich and shouts something.  This usually is a notice to the player that the referee has seen misconduct and will be “coming back” to deal with it after a natural stoppage in play.

The same play finally ended after Rafael was whistled for a foul against Ramires (and probably got away with one against Ivanovich.  Referee Dowd did not issue a caution to Ivanovich for the earlier foul on Rafael during this stoppage.

Only a few seconds later, Rafael was pursuing play deep in his attacking corner when he committed a two-footed flying tackle against Chelsea center half Gary Cahill.  Cahill immediately took exception (he can be seen slamming the ground with his open hand in the replay) and moved to confront Rafael.  As other players intervened, Dowd cautioned Rafael for unsporting behavior.

While we could argue whether the misconduct by Rafael warranted a send off, I think the more interesting area of analysis has to do with prevention.  What could the referee have done differently that might have prevented the ugly scene between Rafael and Cahill from occurring in the first place?

Knowing that he is dealing with two players in Rafael and Ivanovic that have reputations as “hot heads”, would the referee have been better served by clamping down quickly on this situation?  For example, as soon as Ivanovic fouled Rafael, might the referee have stopped play immediately and cautioned Ivanovic (it was certainly worth of a caution)?.  While advantage would have been sacrificed, given the location of the ball, the general frustration of the United players, and the score and time remaining, might that have been a good trade-off?

This case is another good reminder of the importance of staying focused and in tune for the entirety of the match and how the right combination of frustration, scoreline, and time remaining can be precursors of larger problems.

One response to “Case Study: Phil Dowd and the Final 90”

  1. Very observant ITOOTR. Love this analysis and definitely a challenging end with the match temperature rising at the end.


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