It was a fairly quiet week for VAR this week with one big incident. The Salah-Cathcart offside incident being the most controversial. So, in this edition I will focus on the offside rule and how it should be applied.
As they say when it rains it pours, after a similar decision in the Nation’s League Final we have seen it happen again in the Premier League. This time during the Liverpool – Watford game.
The incident: Robertson attempts to play the ball to Salah, if the Egyptian receives the ball he would be in an offside position, Craig Cathcart attempts to intercept the ball and it goes towards Ben Foster who saves it. However, Firmino pounces on the rebound and scores.
According to Law 12
A player is in an offside position if:
- any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
- any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered. For the purposes of determining offside, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.
So, Salah was clearly offside when Robertson plays the ball. Now here is where it gets tricky- Cathcart only rushes to play the ball because he knows Salah is behind him. So now we have to ask – is Salah interfering with play?
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:
- interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
- interfering with an opponent by:
- preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
- challenging an opponent for the ball or
- clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
- making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
- gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
- rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent
- been deliberately saved by any opponent
Salah’s presence has caused Cathcart to play the ball. That much is clear but, I think he is not close enough to be considering interfering with play and that means any advantage Liverpool gain is not due to Salah who is in offside position.
This led to UEFA referee chief Roberto Rosetti had the following to say (on the Mbappe case) indicating changes are coming.
“The player deliberately intervened to play the ball and the opponent was not interfering with play.
However, this case shows us that the current interpretation of the law appears to be in conflict with the spirit of the law itself, which is to prevent any player from taking advantage from their offside position.”
As mentioned above a rebound does not count so Soucek’s rebounded effort is considered the same phase of play but Cathcart’s attempted clearance would have considered a different phase if Salah got the ball.