If you’re a regular reader you will know that I’m all for supporting our referees and not hauling them over the coals for the slightest error.

It pleased me immensely that this weekend threw up more good than bad in the Premier League, but, having said that, if you were to attempt a round-up of any description you would have to ask Neil Swarbrick what he was playing at in letting Sadio Mane push his luck in Liverpool’s win at Selhurst Park.

I noted Adam Nunn’s help in penalising the attacker when keeping shtum might easily have resulted in the wrong decision and, needless to say, I disagree when the Liverpool manager seems to think contact always equals a penalty, whatever dramatics the player who is touched indulges in. By opting to caution Mane for simulation in the first half I have to say Neil got it dead right.

It’s also a pity that some seem to feel that a yellow for simulation makes a second card in any way less likely to be shown, whatever the offence, and I’d hate to think this had any bearing when Neil declined to punish Mane for handball later on.

At the time it prevented a Palace attack as Andros Townsend and Yohan Cabaye were the players next best able to reach the ball when Liverpool’s Senegalese winger took it upon himself to award a free kick… I don’t know about you, but I was always taught to play to the whistle!

A fine performance, although I know Claude Puel would disagree, came from Chris Kavanagh down on the south coast, as Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi was sent off with three minutes to go against Brighton, having already been booked in the second half.

While he wasn’t dismissed for his rather wild display of dissent but for his foul, I felt it was handled well by Kavanagh, even if the player’s reaction reminded me of other examples where players are tending to skate on thin ice.

When Andy Madley gave a penalty against Watford’s Jose Holebas at the end of the first half in their draw against Bournemouth he was literally spot-on. Not only was it a moment of madness from the Greek defender, he hardly accepted the decision as we’d all have preferred him to, either.

What a decision to contend with in your very first Premier League game! It was a great call when even Jordon Ibe, who Holebas punched the ball against, did not seem to know. This was a pretty physical game that provided quite a test, but one I felt Andy passed with flying colours and I take my hat off to his pair of experienced assistants, Constantine Hatzidakis and Peter Kirkup, who backed him up all the way and showed how important teamwork is at this level.

Craig Pawson has been criticised for awarding Arsenal’s first penalty at the Emirates against Stoke, but while I agree it was not the most clear-cut of offences, I think the lad Indi has caught Ozil’s foot.

Craig Pawson

Finally, Andre Marriner showed you don’t need to be a genius, you just need a cool head and the unswerving support of your assistants. Of course, he won’t get any headlines for his handling of the main event of Chelsea versus Spurs, and that’s how it should be, but that fixture really could have been a nasty one, given the recent history between the teams, and Andre took it all in his stride.

Until next time you can catch me on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast every week day on TalkSPORT, 6-10am.


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