Chelsea get lifeline as Mackay seeks answers for 'horrendous error'
Chelsea 4 Cardiff City 1
MALKY MACKAY knows all about the vagaries of refereeing decisions, having been on the wrong end of a 'ghost goal' by Reading five years ago, so he was remarkably calm as he discussed what he called a "horrendous error" by the officials that allowed Chelsea back into an enthralling game on Saturday.
The Cardiff City manager will seek clarification from Mike Riley, head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, over what constitutes foul play when a goalkeeper prepares for a drop-kick.
Rule 12 states that if the goalkeeper has the ball in his control, no opponent may interfere.
So when Samuel Eto'o put his foot up at David Marshall to kick the ball away as the Cardiff goalkeeper bounced the ball in readiness for a drop-kick, the Chelsea striker should have been punished with an indirect free-kick and yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
Instead, Anthony Taylor allowed play to continue, the ball eventually fell for Eden Hazard to score a 33rd-minute equaliser to Jordon Mutch's opener for Cardiff, and Chelsea were back in the game.
That they went on to win comfortably, with three goals in the final 24 minutes, did not ease Mackay's understandable sense of injustice, fuelled by the referee's explanation after the game that the officials considered Marshall to have lost control of the ball by dropping it, a curious call at the time and one that looked ludicrous after seeing television replays.
"I went in purely for clarification from the officials as to what they thought they saw, what they actually gave it on," the Cardiff manager said. "They were quite calm and clear. The linesman spoke to the referee and the referee spoke to the linesman and they felt that Marshall dropped the ball. I asked for clarification on whether he bounced it, and they immediately said: 'No, no, no, if he bounced it, it's a foul'.
"We'll ask for clarification but it's not going to make any difference. Referees are human and linesmen are human as well. They're not making these (mistakes) on purpose. I'll ask Mike Riley and his team to look at, and then I'll accept what it is that comes back from them."
Mackay was a coach at Watford five years ago when his manager, Aidy Boothroyd, was sent to the stands for protesting when young referee Stuart Atwell awarded Reading a goal despite the ball not going near the goal-line.
"We were on the end of the ghost goal when the ball didn't even go in the net," Mackay said. "The following week you're back at it and playing again. It's not something that gives much of a hangover. I'm pretty sure it will be part of the news in terms of radio, TV and press."
Indeed it is, even overshadowing Taylor's dismissal of Jose Mourinho to the stands for the final 20 minutes after Chelsea's manager expressed his frustration too heatedly.
Mourinho sat grumpily among supporters to their obvious delight and refused to speak to the media, sending his assistant, Steve Holland, to make his apologies.
Holland said: "It looked like the goalkeeper was bouncing the ball and as it was in mid-air Samuel touched it and it broke for us. I am sure the referee is aware of the rules."
Yet Petr Cech, celebrating his 300th appearance as Chelsea's goalkeeper, was also unsure. "As far as I know, one motion is counted when you hold the ball, throw it in the air to kick or make a drop-kick on half-volley. In between, no one should touch the ball.
"What Samuel did was very clever and unusual. If someone had the idea to nick it off you when you wanted to kick the ball, it is obviously a foul. But this is a different situation. If I was in that situation, I don't know if I was in the wrong or the referee because it isn't the same."
Marshall apologised to his team-mates, admitting he should not have bounced the ball, even though he is entitled to without fearing a challenge.
"It's a habit of mine to bounce the ball before kicking it, so it is probably my fault and I apologised to the boys," the Scot said. "I am not sure if the linesman and referee thought I dropped the ball thinking he (Eto'o) was not there, but I knew he was there and I bounced it so hopefully we can get it cleared up."
Another issue for the Premier League to consider is whether Mourinho merits a touchline ban. The Portuguese had earlier been warned for stepping onto the pitch as he protested against time-wasting by Cardiff players, a charge Mackay denied.
Mourinho was not happy with his own team, either, when another howler from David Luiz allowed Mutch to run in on a Ramires back-pass to score in the 10th minute, and it could have been worse but for Cech making spectacular saves from Peter Odemwingie and Kim Bo-kyung.
Ultimately, Mackay's men ran out of steam and Eto'o put them ahead with a fine first goal for the club in the 66th minute before Oscar and Hazard scored in the closing stages. (© Daily Telegraph, London)