‘That’s the dilemma’ - Ex-Premier League ref’s surprise assessment of Newcastle United v Arsenal controversy

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There were a number of major talking points after Newcastle United’s 1-0 win over Premier League rivals Arsenal on Saturday evening.

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher has given his taken on a number of controversial moments in Newcastle United’s home win over Premier League rivals Arsenal.

The Magpies came out on top in a stormy affair with Mikel Arteta’s side as a second-half goal from the in-form Anthony Gordon ensured United stretched their unbeaten run to a seventh league game and stayed just four points adrift of the top four.

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The aftermath of the game was largely dominated by heated comments from Gunners boss Arteta as he branded the performance and a number of decisions by on-field referee Stuart Attwell and his team of officials as ‘embarrassing’ and suggested he was ‘wasting his time’ even discussing the issues.

Should Kai Havertz have been shown a red card for his challenge on Sean Longstaff?

Former Everton midfielder Arteta did not point to the game’s first contentious moment during his post-match comments as Gunners star Kai Havertz avoided a red card for a cynical challenge on Sean Longstaff, with Attwell opting to show a yellow card in a decision that was backed up by VAR official Andy Madley.

Gallagher, a former Premier League and FIFA referee, believes Havertz was lucky to avoid a more severe punishment but ‘backed’ the officials for the call they made.

“If he (Havertz) had got a red card he couldn’t argue,” he told Sky Sports.

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AFP via Getty Images

“It’s quite ironic history has rewritten itself on Saturday. This reminds me so much of Kovacic a few weeks ago where I think he was right on the cusp of getting a red card, he got a yellow card.

“I think, again, the referee has given him the benefit of the doubt here because he’s flying through the air, reckless, he catches him with his wrong foot luckily, because if he catches him with the first foot, I don’t think Longstaff would be getting up.

“He also, luckily for him, arrives low, but if he got sent off he couldn’t argue. I’d back the referee with the yellow card but what I find hard is later in the game, I can’t see how he finishes the match.”

Did Joelinton foul Gabriel before setting up Anthony Gordon?

Gordon’s winning goal proved to be a hot topic in the post-match discussions as the effort was subjected to three separate VAR calls, with the final decision finally made five minutes after the ball had hit the back of the net.

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Firstly, there was a decision to be made over whether United midfielder Joe Willock has kept the ball in play prior to his cross to the far post that allowed Joelinton to set up Gordon to fire home.

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Gallagher again backed the on-field and VAR officials for their call and insisted there was no clear evidence the ball had ran over the line.

“I don’t think so,” he said when asked if the ball was over the line.

“I talk about a corner, when you see a corner taken now it overhangs the quadrant. Often you think it’s outside, but because it overhangs it’s in play. The law says the whole of the ball has to be over the whole of the line.

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“If you look, there’s a fair chance part of the ball is overhanging the line. I say fair chance because you have to prove the ball is out of play, the assistant has to be convinced it’s out of play because he can flag it’s out of play and the VAR has to be convinced it’s out of play before he can flag it out of play.

“If there is a doubt, you can’t say conclusively it’s out. You don’t have to say conclusively it’s in, it has to be out and there’s no evidence it’s out.”

What happened next has proven to be the most debated part of the goal as Joelinton challenged with Gunners defender Gabriel before finding Gordon inside the six yard box. The duo rose at the far post and the Brazilian midfielder was accused of pushing his compatriot in his attempts to win the ball.

Gallagher admitted he felt the Magpies star should have been punished - but conceded the decision could have gone either way.

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“That’s the crux of the matter, it’s a subjective decision,” said Gallagher.

“For me, I think it’s a push, I’ve spoken to many who think it’s not, I’ve spoken to many who think it is. That’s the dilemma, it’s subjective, the referee felt no, the VAR looked at it and thinks it’s not enough to overrule the referee.

“That’s where we are at, you look at it on balance, people say if he’s picked number two, the push, the other two (decisions) would have gone away. That’s great, but the referee didn’t pick the push, he chose not to pick the push, the referee chose to say it’s normal physical contact rather than a foul - and the VAR backed him.”

Was Anthony Gordon offside before scoring?

The final aspect of the goal was whether Anthony Gordon was offside when he received the ball from Joelinton.

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Gallagher believes the officials were unable to make a firm call as the placement of the Brazilian’s body made it impossible for the VAR officials to use video technology to make a decision ruling over Gordon’s position.

Gordon has been sensational in any position he has played this season and will want to impress out in Germany.Gordon has been sensational in any position he has played this season and will want to impress out in Germany.
Gordon has been sensational in any position he has played this season and will want to impress out in Germany. | Getty Images

He said: “The two defenders is the norm, the goalkeeper and a defender, the two defenders between him and the goal or, alternatively, he (Gordon) can be behind the ball.

“I think that’s the key issue here because the goalkeeper is a red herring as he is out of play so to speak. Is Gordon behind the ball when Joelinton knocks it down? If you see it, when he knocks it down, there’s no start point for the VAR to draw the line.

“No start point, no destination, if there’s no start point, he can’t get to the end point, so therefore it was impossible to find the ball because of Joelinton’s body anywhere they could draw a line through to see where Gordon was. They default back to the assistant call and the assistant call was onside.”

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