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“Does that matter?” – Referees chief Howard Webb opens up on major Manchester City handball decision



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PGMOL chief Howard Webb has offered clarification and personal insight into the decision to award Manchester City a penalty against Everton for handball.

It was a contest that saw the newly-crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions cruise to a 1-3 victory to spark a winning run of form in the Premier League, but not without some level of match officiating controversy.

After Jack Harrison’s opener to give Everton the lead at the half-time interval, and Phil Foden’s early second-half equaliser, Julian Alvarez was granted the opportunity to move Manchester City into the lead from the penalty spot.

Amadou Onana was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area, following a Nathan Ake shot from close range in amongst a scramble by the goalmouth, despite the Everton man being just yards from the shot-taker.

Speaking on the handball incident that saw Manchester City awarded a penalty awarded for a handball by Onana, Howard Webb admitted that while the rule remains the ‘most subjective area’, the right decision was made at Goodison Park.

“Handball still remains the most subjective area,” said Webb. “I think we have got this one right on this occasion. The officials work together, the referee and the assistant referee, to come to the on-field decision of handball.

“They see Onana’s hand up by his head and in that position it blocks a shot towards goal. I don’t for minute think that he meant to do that, but you don’t have to commit humble offense because the laws talk about taking a risk by putting your hand in that position.

“He’s reaching out with his foot to try to block the shot. He doesn’t do that, but his arm is up there and it blocks the shot. There’s lots of controversy if we don’t give this.”

Howard Webb continued by discussing the thought processes that may have taken place when reviewing the incident, “The VAR’s going to look at it and see whether that’s clearly and obviously wrong. And he’s not going to come to that conclusion when he sees the arm up by the side of the head blocking a shot towards goal and therefore a credible penalty-kick outcome.”

“At full speed it’s difficult to see the trajectory of the ball [and whether it is on target or not]. I mean it’s going only a short distance and people will talk to us about short distance. Does that matter? And sometimes that can be something you factor in. But in this situation the arm was quite low. When it makes contact with the ball, it’s gone quite high.

“And if it had stayed lower down, then we wouldn’t have given a penalty.”

The contest also witnessed controversy as John Stones succumbed to an injury following an offside call that was ignored by the assistant referee, to enable play to continue, before raising the flag when the attacking phase of play had ended.

Stones – who endured a clash to the ankle – has been ruled out of action for several weeks for Manchester City, but could make a return to some level of first-team training when the club travel to Abu Dhabi for a warm weather training camp this week.