Újpest v MTK: A look at the big calls.

It is safe to say that there were a few decisions, particularly during the second half, in the Újpest v MTK Budapest game that the fans found to be contentious.  Match referee Viktor Kassai left the field of play to a torrent of abuse from the home fans who clearly lay the blame for the result at his feet. Manager Nebojša Vignjević made his views clear in the post-match press conference – he labelled his players as being arrogant after their superb mid-week Europa league result, stating they thought they could win just by turning up and that he found that disrespectful to their opponents on the day, he was clearly furious with his players and frustrated by what he at the time perceived as their lack of effort, he did not mention the referee at all. You could argue that he didn’t do so because he didn’t want a fine and/or ban but then you listen to several other managers who more often than not have something to say about the referee, every week – and even more so when they lose, irrespective of whether the referee called the decisions right or not!

We have decided to have a look at all of the big decisions in the match to see whether the referee called them right or wrong within the Laws of the Game.

1:      Yellow Card – Kulcsár Tamás:

Given for a late tackle, Kulcsár played the man not the ball, as the pundits like to say! The yellow card was immediately accepted by the players from both teams with no dissent or fuss. Kulcsár was very quick to apologise to Diallo and the referee. His demeanour suggested that that there was no intent on his part, he simply mistimed his tackle on a wet and slippery pitch. A simple and easy decision for the referee and he will have been pleased that his first decision in the game was so easy.

Verdict: Correct decision

2:      Penalty Shout – Soma Novothny

Breaking into the box in between 2 MTK players Novothny went to ground and appealed for a penalty. He had been involved in a perfectly legal shoulder to shoulder challenge with Selin Yevgen and came off second best. There was nothing wrong with the challenge & playing on was the right decision.

Verdict: Correct decision

3:      Red Card – Pauljevic Branko

This came just 9 seconds after the above decision. The ball was still in play, Levecse played the ball to Kanta and Pauljevic dived into a tackle. He initially only had 1 foot off of the ground but was still reckless in his behaviour and received a straight red. He accepted the red and walked off of the pitch immediately. The replays clearly show that Pauljevic did not play the ball but did stamp on Kanta’s thigh. Mr Kassai is clearly seen explaining the decision to the players whilst Kanta was still receiving treatment. Pauljevic was already on his way off of the pitch at the time.

Pauljevic has received a 2-match ban from the disciplinary committee for this foul.

Verdict: Correct decision

4:      Corner

66th min Bognár had a shot at goal, hitting the side netting, Kassai delays the whistle before pointing towards the corner, the delay in whistle suggests he was waiting for a signal from either his AAR, Molnár Attila, or AR, Farkas Balázs, as to whether it was a corner or goal kick. His position is correct but his view of who played the ball last would have been unsighted. There is no flag signal from the AR which could suggest that the AAR made the call, however the AR may well have opted to verbally advise a corner via the headset. It is not clear enough footage to show if there was verbal communication. Replays show that neither Sankovic nor Pajovic touch the ball. The ball does not deviate at all from its’ path as it passes each player, which is also a good indicator that neither player played the ball. The ball went out for a further corner as a result of the awarded corner, with Pajovic ultimately clearing the 2nd corner. It had no direct bearing on the game or score line.

Verdict: Incorrect decision. A goal kick should have been awarded initially.

5:      Challenge on Kychak Artem

There was a challenge on MTK goalkeeper, that the MTK players were unhappy with. As the ball came in from a Újpest player in the 79th min, Novothny jumped into/pushed Kychak. His eyes were on the ball and it was a typical ‘coming together of players’. It was a foul and a direct free kick was awarded. The foul did not meet the standards set out in Law 12 of the Laws of the Game for a yellow card to be awarded.

Verdict: Correct decision

6:      Handball by Novothny

In the 81st min, Novothny clearly uses his arm to nudge the ball forward. It is clear from the replay that he deliberately moves his arm towards the ball to use his arm to nudge the ball towards his feet. In the seconds before hand he had attempted to hit the ball in the air above his head but missed. Direct free kick to MTK awarded.

Verdict: Correct decision

7:      Tackle on Balázs Benjámin

Balázs Benjámin was heading towards goal, in the 82nd min and went to ground. Direct free kick to Újpest was awarded. It is unclear on the replays how much, if any, contact Takács had thigh to thigh with Balázs however he had also thrown his left leg in front of Balázs who had no choice but to jump over it. Even if there had been no contact it fell under the criteria set out in Law 12 of “trips or attempts to trip” and did meet the criteria for a free kick. Takács did not meet the criteria for reckless, his actions were careless, so it was not a cautionable offence. It should be noted that Diallo was extremely lucky not to receive a yellow card for asking for Takács to be booked.

Verdict: Correct

8:      Disallowed Goal 

From the free kick mentioned above, Burekovic took the kick and the ball was headed into the net by Tischler. The game was 0-1 at this point. The goal was ruled offside by AR, Varga Zsolt. Replays clearly show that 2 players were in an offside position at the moment the ball was played, Tischler and Novothny. As soon as Tischler played the ball he went from being in an offside position to being offside – there is a difference!

Verdict: Correct decision

9:      Speaks to 4th official

In the 84th min. Kassai correctly awarded a direct free kick to MTK for a foul by Obinna. He delayed the taking of the free kick while he went over to the technical area and spoke to his 4th official for about 6 seconds. It is unclear what about as he did not speak to either bench or any players, so no disciplinary action occurred as a result. It was not anything game changing, or untoward, it is purely being highlighted as it is unclear what it was about.

Verdict: none to be had

10:     Non-call

In the 86th min Újpest had a corner, the ball was headed out about 20-25 yards from goal, played forward to in line with the centre circle in the same half then to about midway in the next half. The main thing to note is the speed of play, it took 6 seconds between the ball first being headed to it reaching just outside the penalty area at the other end. Kassai had been positioned just inside the penalty area in the corner opposite the side of his AR, this the position you would expect him to be in. As the ball reached the opposite penalty area Lencse went to ground looking for a free kick. Replays show he was falling forward in any event due to his own momentum. Correct decision by Mr Kassai to take no action. It should also be noted that at the time he made the decision Kassai had covered nearly the length of the pitch to be right up with play, an incredible sprint that made his decision credible to the players and which was backed up as being correct, by replays not available to him at the time he made the decision.

Verdict: Correct

11:     Non-offside decision

With MTK on a quick counter attack following a Újpest corner in the 90th min, there was a strong suspicion of offside on Lencse. Replays clearly show that he was onside at the time the ball was played and it was an outstanding call by AR, Farkas Balázs, who was evidently right up with play.

Verdict: correct

12&13: Penalty – MTK Budapest & Red Card – Balázs Benjámin 90+1 min

As a direct result of the non-offside decision above, Lencse was through on goal with only Pajovic to beat. Balázs charged into the penalty area and pushed Lencse over. He made no attempt to play the ball and from his position he had no possibility to play the ball. It was a clear foul and a penalty was the correct decision. The bigger question was: Did it fit the criteria for “denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity”? (DOGSO) as this would be the difference between a yellow card and a red card as a sanction for Balázs.

For a DOGSO 4 criteria must be considered:

  1. Distance between the offence and goal – It was midway between the penalty area and penalty spot.
  2. General direction of play – Lencse was less than 15 yards out, facing goal with only the goal keeper to beat. Pajovic was slightly to his left and he was in a position to shoot.
  3. Likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball – none by Balázs
  4. Location and number of defenders – At the time of the push no other defender was close enough to attempt a tackle, Angelov was the nearest defender and he was approx. 5 yards to the right of Lencse and at least 1 yard behind.

The foul therefore fit the criteria for DOGSO. A yellow card can only be issued if there was a genuine attempt to play the ball, there wasn’t. A red card must be awarded in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.). Balázs fit the criteria for 2 of those!

Balázs has received a 1-match ban from the disciplinary committee for this foul.

Verdict: Penalty – correct; Red card – correct

14:     Yellow Card – Diallo Alassane

Diallo was one of the most vocal about the penalty/red card decision and was cautioned. He was already walking a tightrope, or at least should have been, as he was lucky to have not already been cautioned at this point. Assumably given for dissent, it was certainly justifiable.

Verdict: correct

Overall summary:

Újpest fans will understandably feel aggrieved, their team lost 2-0 in a game where they had 2 players sent off, a penalty awarded against them and a goal disallowed for them. As harsh as those decisions feel as a fan, player or manager, the fact is that Mr Kassai called every one of them correctly within the Laws of the Game. Overall Mr Kassai played some good advantages, allowed a physical but fair game, was consistent in his decision making and had good foul detection. The match can be regarded as challenging with 12 big decisions being made in total, albeit 4 of them as part of the same passage of play, a non-offside call, penalty, red and yellow cards and another 2, the tackle on Balázs and the goal being disallowed as being directly linked. Mr Kassai and his team called all 12 of those decisions correctly.

The one incorrect decision highlighted could have potentially been a big call. Had a goal been scored/penalty given/red or yellow card given as a direct result from the corner then it would have become a game changing error. On this occasion there was no game changing result, so the error did not matter.

The above is based on my own opinion and my interpretation of the Laws of the Game. By way of background, I am a retired referee and a qualified referee assessor and coach.