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The Merseyside Derby Penalty: should it have been awarded?

Following the recent Merseyside Derby at the weekend between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield, a match won by Everton, the debate raged around the penalty conceded by Liverpool, who were already 1-0 down at this time

A ball was threaded through the Liverpool defence and Dominic Calvert-Lewin looked a good bet to score….

Until…

A decisive tackle by Trent Alexander-Arnold appeared to put the Everton striker off his stride.

This resulted in Calvert-Lewin falling into the back of Alexander- Arnold then being carried over the England right back’s head and shoulders before apparently being tripped by his right leg. This caused the Everton striker to fall to the ground and appeal for a penalty.

The appeal went to VAR, which has been the target of many critics this season.

The match referee spent a few moments reviewing the incident, before awarding Everton a penalty, which they subsequently scored with the last kick of the match to win the game 2-0

The penalty has been the subject of fierce debate since and featured on SkySports Football show in the ‘Ask The Ref Segment’ featuring Dermot Gallagher.

Unsurprisingly, Gallagher as so often is the case with him, sided with the referees judgment and viewed it as a penalty.

It could be argued, however, that Alexander-Arnold in moving to intercept the tackle, could be considered a tad unlucky because his initial movement as seen in the video below did not make contact with Calvert-Lewin.

But as Calvert-Lewin hit his back, this caused the defender to bend forward, which resulted in his right leg going upwards and catching the forward

Was it a penalty?

The referee thought so….

Jurgen Klopp obviously did not…..

Public and Pundit reaction is mixed, but I certainly think Alexander Arnold was harshly penalised.

What are your views? Feel free to provide them in the comments below…..

England Vs Northern Ireland Preview: Lionesses Aiming for First Win Under Riise’s Reign

England are in action for the first time in almost a year tomorrow in their first game under new boss Hege Riise, as they take on Northern Ireland in a friendly at St George’s Park. 

It is the first of a double header of games for Riise and her squad in the upcoming months, as they attempt to build some momentum ahead of the rescheduled European Championships, which will take place on home soil next year. 

They face Canada on 13th April in their second fixture announced by the FA, with many players hoping to impress in these two fixtures and make the Team GB squad for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo 

Tomorrow’s game will be the first meeting between the two nations since 2008, when the Lionesses triumphed 2-0 during a European Championship qualifier at Mourneview Park.

Much has changed since then, especially for the Green and White Army, who have enjoyed an upturn in form under former Derry City boss Kenny Shiels, winning their last four Euro 2022 qualifying games to secure their passage to the two legged play off games in April. 

The exhibition game is as beneficial to Northern Ireland as it is England, as it forms part of their preparation for the crunch two legged tie. It is their sole fixture before the historic games, which will take place in less than two months time.  

England, who are ranked sixth in the world and 43 places above their opponents, have not played since they were defeated 1-0 by Spain in March of last year. 

Riise has stuck with the majority of the squad who played in what turned out to be Phil Neville’s last game in charge before taking up a role as Inter Miami manager, naming ten Manchester City players in her twenty-one strong panel.

One of the stalwarts included is on loan Everton midfielder Jill Scott, who is in line to make her 150th appearances for the Lionesses at St George’s Park tomorrow. 

Demi Stokes is injured along Chelsea duo Millie Bright and Fran Kirby who both withdrew from the squad at the weekend and were replaced by Manchester United defender Millie Turner and Arsenal winger Beth Mead, who had narrowly missed out in the initial squad announcement. 

Nikita Parris is another notable absentee. The Lyon forward is unable to join up with the team due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Toni Duggan, who now features for Athletico Madrid, is another who misses out on selection. 

Young Bristol City forward Ebony Salmon, who only turned 20 in January, receives her first call up along with other uncapped players such as Birmingham goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, Everton shot stopper Sandy MacIver, Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy and Manchester United forward Ella Toone.

Man City’s Ellie Roebuck seems the most likely of England’s inexperienced goalkeepers to get the nod to start in goal. 

Captain Steph Houghton will be partnered by Arsenal centre back Leah Williamson, whilst FIFA Best Winner Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly will line up at left and right back respectively. 

Jordan Nobbs and Jill Scott should feature in the centre of the park and will be flanked by Chloe Kelly and Georgia Stanway on the wings. Bethany England and Ellen White should start up front. 

Riise gave her inaugural press conference ahead of the game, expressing her satisfaction with how the training camp before the game has gone so far:

“We are delighted to have a fixture against Northern Ireland, to prepare ourselves for this week and I have been very impressed by the spirit and determination I have witnessed from our players in camp so far.”

Kenny Shiels is missing a number of influential members of his team and so again has opted to name quite a youthful squad, with seven changes from their last outing against Faroe Islands in December. 

The stand out call up is for 16 year-old defender Ella Haughey. The Lisburn Rangers full back had been training with the senior side on a trail basis before receiving the call that she would feature in the squad for the game. 

The teenager this week cited Lucy Bronze as one of her idols growing up and told the BBC that:

“It’s hard to put into words how much the call up means to me”.

She joins Crusaders goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford as the only other uncapped member of the squad, coming in for Forfar Farmington goalkeeper Lauren Perry. 

There are recalls for Linfield duo Casey Howe and Rebecca McKenna, as well as Birmingham’s Rebecca Halloway and former Hearts midfielder Louise McDaniel. 

Demi Vance is out with a knee injury whilst sisters Caitlin and Kirsty McGuiness are unavailable for selection.

In a huge boost for Shiels, star striker Simone Magill has recovered from her injury and is included in the travelling squad. She is part of the experienced spine which Northern Ireland have, which includes the likes of centre backs Ashley Hutton and Julie Nelson as well as midfield trio Rachel Furness, Sarah McFadden and Marissa Callaghan. 

Given how well their 4-3-3 formation served them in the thrashing of the Faroe Islands, Shiels is likely to stick with his tried and tested methods. 

Burns is a nailed on starter in goal and will have experienced duo Hutton and Nelson at centre back, with Halloway and Caldwell completing the back four.

In front of them, Northern Ireland will likely line up with a midfield three of McFadden McClaron and Furness, the latter two being some of the Green and White Army’s more creative players. 

Magill should slot back into the side and lead the line with Wade and Wilson lining up on the flanks.

Ahead of the mouthwatering encounter Shiels was realistic in his assessment of the task ahead of Northern Ireland, but was keen to stress that whatever the result, it will be a great learning curve for his side:

“When we leave England after the match I will know straight away what we learnt from the game,

“The result will not be indicative of what we are looking to achieve. As long as the girls get better collectively then we will get better as a team, and it is inevitable that results will follow.”

The game kicks off at 12:30pm tomorrow and is available on the BBC iPlayer and website. 

FA CHARGE REFeree Darren DRYSDALE

Following the midweek match between Northampton and Ipswich Town, the FA have charged the referee in charge of that game Darren Drysdale with improper conduct against Ipswich Town’s Alan Judge.

In a statement, the FA said:

“Darren Drysdale has been charged with a breach of FA Rule E3 following last night’s EFL League One game between Ipswich Town FC and Northampton Town FC.”

The incident happened right at the end of the game when Judge felt that he should have had a penalty. The Referee Drysdale, however, obviously thought otherwise and awarded a free kick to Northampton Town

Admittedly, after watching the alleged foul, it is unclear if there was contact on Judge, which the player took exception to. What subsequently followed was a face- to-face confrontation between Judge and Drysdale.

It appeared that Judge felt incensed enough to say something at the referee. Whatever was said, neither party has disclosed but it prompted Drysdale to reply in an aggressive manner. Both Judge and Drysdale had to be separated and the match soon finished after the encounter.

Drysdale has since apologised, saying:

“I fully understand that it is important for us as referees to maintain our composure throughout the game and always engage with players in a professional manner.”

For his part, Judge said:

“There was no need for an apology. I wasn’t looking for one or looking for any action to be taken. In football as everybody knows stuff happens in the heat of the moment in a game. We all make mistakes and for me that is the end of this.”

It is not clear yet, whether Drysdale will officiate in any games this weekend.

Currently referees are in the spotlight more than usual with Mike Dean also the subject of some horrific social media abuse over this handling of the incident in the game he was officiating between Fulham and West Ham.

AFC Wimbledon appoint mARK rOBINSON head coach

AFC Wimbledon, yesterday moved to appoint Interim manager Mark Robinson, previously the clubs youth team coach and first team coach, under Glyn Hodges, as their new head coach.

Robinson, appointed as Interim Coach on 30th January, has been with the club since 2004, gradually moving through the ranks.

Following the club’s, ‘sleep walk’ for want of a better expression into the League One Relegation zone playing an Ill suited 3-5-2 formation. Previous incumbent Glyn Hodges, who had earlier guided the clu bto their best ever start in League One was sacked.

Mark Robinson was installed on an interim basis and immediately tweaked things. Out went the previous formation, being replaced with a more balanced 4-2-3-1 formation for a match in the Papa Johns trophy at Oxford, which AFC Wimbledon sadly lost 3-1

Players who previously were played out of position, were put in their correct posistion and the team responded well. The same formation was kept for the away match at Wigan Athletic. The Dons played on the front foot, by attacking the opposition. They roared into a two- goal lead, before being pegged back to 2-2. But thanks to a penalty by Joe Pigs Pigott, they walked away with a 3-2 win.

That was enough to take them out of the drop zone and into 19th place. This, however, tells only part of the story.

What has been noticeable under Robbo (as he is affectionately called) has been a more positive outlook from the players.

Interviews have been more upbeat and The Dons are now playing at a different level. Ideally with ‘Robbo’ in charge Wimbledon will now move up the table

The new man has been fairly forthright, but positive about what needs to change and has had input from the players about how they would like to play a more possession based game, which makes it harder for the opposition, but ultimately wins games.

Peterborough United away are up next this coming Saturday, but on the evidence seen so far it seems that now is a good time to be a Dons fan, owner and player.

WILFRIED ZAHA TO STOP TAKING THE KNEe

Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha, has become the first footballer to publicly state that he is no longer going to take the knee before matches

In case you are not aware what the saying ‘taking the knee’ means it refers to an incident in America late last year, when a suspected criminal was arrested by police. He subsequently resisted arrest and was then restrained by officers using their knees. During this struggle very sadly the man died.

Outcry followed, which then resulted in all Footballers across the globe, taking the knee in stance over racism.

Though Zaha is publicly the first player to state this, previously other players and some teams have also said they would not be taking the knee.

Among them was James McLean, the Stoke City Footballer, his reasons were entirley different and related to his background and upbringing.

Zaha, has said he intends to stop taking the knee and Stand Tall, believing the protest is no longer sufficient and has become diluted.

Its a view shared by many others, who feel the same. Brentford’s players stopped taking the knee at the weekend after deciding football’s anti-discrimination gesture “no longer” has impact.

In September QPR’s director of football, Les Ferdinand said

“The impact of the gesture had become diluted, comparing it to “a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge”

Indeed, there are some people, who feel that the increase in Social Media Abuse, which itself is vile and unnecceary and most likely the end result of a bottle of scotch, or way too many beers, then hiding behind social media posts, is due to the taking of the knee.

While there are no statistics to show if this has caused an increase in the online trolling, what is clear, is that before the taking of the knee, there was not as much of this ‘hate’ as their is now

A survey by the Professional Footballers’ Association in December found there was still overwhelming support among players for taking a knee before kick-off.

On Wednesday the England manager Gareth Southgate, insisted the gesture was still hugely powerful in keeping the fight against racial inequality and injustice at the forefront of people’s minds.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how many players follow Wilfried Zaha’s stance and if the knee stops being taken