BY SAM SMITH
Roy Hodgson has revealed his disillusionment with the handball law after seeing two penalties harshly awarded in successive matches involving his Crystal Palace side.
In the Eagles’ victory against Manchester United last weekend, Red Devils defender Victor Lindelof conceded a penalty when Jordan Ayew’s shot struck the Swede’s hand from an almost pinpoint range. Afterwards, Hodgson told reporters that he did not think it should have been a penalty.
On Saturday, Joel Ward was adjudged to have handled inside the penalty area and Richarlison struck home the resultant kick to hand Everton a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park. Both were awarded following VAR reviews that led to the on-field referee consulting their respective pitch-side monitors.
New handball guidelines introduced this season say that a player will be penalised if the ball strikes an arm that is made “unnaturally bigger”. An arm is considered to be unnaturally bigger when it is outstretched beyond the body line, rather than being tucked inside.
Hodgson was asked if he would raise his opposition to the law with the Premier League. “I don’t know what more I can do. It’s more a disillusionment, really, with what’s happening to the game of football I’ve been involved in for so many years and now [I am] beginning not to understand,” he said.
“And if there is any anger – I’m not exactly apoplectic – it’s because good games of football are being reduced to discussions about penalties which I am boldly saying are completely and utterly wrong.
“There will be just as many people out there who will be saying: ‘rules are rules, and this is the new rule, so you better get used to it.’ I don’t dispute that. While I’m still working in the Premier League, still working in football, my attempts, for what they’re worth, to prove to people that the rule is wrong… I don’t hold out too much hope that the rule will be changed back to what it was just because Roy Hodgson says so.”
Dubiously awarded penalties for handball have not been exclusive to Palace games. Brighton’s Neal Maupay conceded one against Man United which was awarded by VAR after the final whistle had been blown at 2-2. Bruno Fernandes’s match-winning penalty was the final kick of the match.
Hodgson – who began managing in 1976 – feels the law has rendered football unrecognisable from when he started.
The 73-year-old continued: “I’m careful of using the word ‘anger’, it’s much more disillusionment. I think the game today, [it was a shame] because I thought from our part our performance was really, really good. But, of course, everything gets reduced to the very low level of a manager complaining about a decision. But I’m not complaining about a decision, I’m complaining about what we have allowed to happen to a rule.
“Last week, we got a penalty at Manchester United and after the game I was asked the question: ‘Did you think it was a penalty?’, and I said ‘No. No I didn’t think it was a penalty,’ so I feel my conscious is very clear in that respect.
“I’m not angry today because we’ve lost the game because of a decision. I’m disillusioned that the game that I have loved and served for so long, I’m finding very hard to recognise now because I’m not seeing anything that even looks remotely like a penalty.
“It happens in our box and it’s only 90 seconds later when the ball is at the other end and the referee is made aware that under the new rules this could be a penalty. I hope I’ve made that clear.”
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