In this week’s Play of the Week we are looking at Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s amazing debut for LA Galaxy against MLS newcomers Los Angeles FC and AR Frank Anderson’s part in his second goal.

From the moment 4th Official, Daniel Radford held up the numbers board and Ibrahimovic entered the field as substitute in the 73rd minute, there was great excitement and an air of expectancy, but no-one could have seriously expected what was going to happen next. With Galaxy initially trailing 0-3 and having just scored what was expected to be a ‘consolation’ goal to make it 1-3, in comes Zlatan who has an assist for the second goal in the 73rd minute. Then look at his world class unbelievable goal in the 77th minute to make it 3-3!

The winning goal in the 90th minute is the play we are focusing on for the purpose of Play of the Week. As the ball is played through Ibrahimovic is in an offside position and starts moving towards the ball. He decides to leave it for team-mate former England international, Ashley Cole, who then puts in a perfect cross for Zlatan to head home the winning goal and complete the sheer drama of the occasion.

The first decision that AR Frank Anderson has to make is to keep his flag down when he knows that Ibrahimovic is in an offside position but starts moving towards the ball. This is when ARs have to show restraint and use the “Wait and see” technique to see if the player in the offside position becomes active. The offside law states:

Offside Offence

A player is in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:

  • Interfering with play playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
  • Interfering with opponent by
    • Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
    • Challenging an opponent for the ball or
    • Clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when the action impacts on an opponent or
    • Making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

You will see in this play that Zlatan does not play the ball, nor prevent an opponent from playing the ball, nor challenge an opponent, nor attempt to play the ball nor did he impact on the ability of an opponent to play the ball. This is why Anderson’s use of the “Wait and See technique” was so important in not raising the flag as soon as Ibrahimovic moves towards the ball.

When play continues, Anderson has another big decision to make and we have mentioned ‘continued concentration’ in POTW on many occasions. When Cole crosses the ball, Ibrahimovic is ahead of the second last defender so at first glance it appears that he is offside. However the law states:

A player is in an offside position if:

  • Any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent

The position of the ball is crucial here to this decision. Look at the still frame pictures and you will see that the ball is slightly ahead of Ibrahimovic making this an unbelievable world class decision, every bit as good in it’s own right as Zlatan’s first goal! Referees, and in particular ARs, very rarely get credit for their contribution to the game, yet this decision was just as important as the actions of Cole or Ibrahimovic in creating this goal!

We don’t know yet whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be going to the World Cup this year, I hope he does.  He would certainly add to the spectacle. What we do know is that AR Frank Anderson is going to the World Cup and with decisions like these we know that he certainly belongs on the world stage and his and all the other world cup referees’ and ARs’ contributions could prove to be as crucial as those of the best players in the world!

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