Match Incident: Kyle Walker Handball, Man City vs Tottenham

Image courtesy of 101 Great Goals (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“Maybe not for Manchester City but for me and for the rest of humanity I think yes it was a penalty.”

I raised an eyebrow after reading what Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino had to say following his side’s defeat to Manchester City in this weekend’s early kickoff.

I hadn’t seen the match or any of the highlights yet, so I was definitely intrigued to watch this incident he spoke of. Before I break it down, let’s have a look:

  • DATE: April 20, 2019
  • COMPETITION: Premier League
  • TEAMS: Manchester City (H) vs Tottenham Hotspur (A)
  • REFEREE: Michael Oliver
  • INCIDENT: Possible handball and penalty
Courtesy: Streamable

Now, here’s what the current Laws of the Game say about handball (note that the new rules for handball do not come into effect for domestic leagues until the start of the 2019/20 season).

p. 102 in the 2018/19 IFAB Laws of the Game

Let’s consider each of the three bullet points in closer detail here. First, while, technically speaking, Walker himself is moving towards the ball, I believe there is a distinction to be made between his body and his hand. Walker’s momentum is taking him forward but I don’t think there’s any way you can say with certainty that he’s consciously moving his hand in the direction of the ball.

The second point is a big one. By my estimation, there are no more than three feet separating Dele Alli and Walker when Dele initially touches the ball. There is no way anybody can reasonably expect Walker to know precisely where the ball will deflect to if it hits Dele in that position – note the “unexpected ball” in parentheses in the LotG.

The third point isn’t so much a ‘consideration’ as it is a reminder, and as far as the position of Walker’s hand is concerned, it’s not flailing outwards, it’s part of its natural motion, and, crucially for me, if the ball doesn’t hit his arm, there’s a good chance it hits his body anyways.

VERDICT: Correct decision, no handball

You can’t see it in the video, but referee Michael Oliver has a clear line of sight towards the incident and correctly decides that no handball offence took place. The ball did hit Kyle Walker’s hand, but the touch was not deliberate, his arm was by his side and in a natural position, and the ball came from too close a distance for Walker to reasonably be able to get his arm out of the way.

Pochettino can complain all he likes, but I don’t think the ‘rest of humanity’ will be on his side on this one.

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