3 worst referee decisions of all time

Three letters dominate Premier League most debatse up and down the country… VAR. Love it or loathe it, it’s impossible to deny that VAR has crash-landed into England’s top-flight and caused quite a stir. As has been proved by countless lists of incorrect calls, having the technology in place doesn’t always mean that the right decision will be made if the human operating it is having a bad day. Given the outpouring of disapproval levelled at VAR, it’s easy to forget why it was implemented in the first place. These are our top 3 worst Premier League referee decisions before VAR.

The 3 worst referee decisions

Chelsea vs. Arsenal, 2013 (Kieran Gibbs’ red card)

Players will often act shocked when a decision is given against them. Regardless of the severity of the foul. It’s standard procedure to protest your innocence whether you were in the wrong or not. The regularity of deceit towards referees has rendered players’ protests meaningless. So, spare a thought for Kieran Gibbs, who saw red at Stamford Bridge for a handball actually committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Arsenal were 2-0 down when Eden Hazard curled a shot towards goal. With the goalkeeper in no man’s land, Oxlade-Chamberlain palmed the ball wide whilst trying to give the impression the ball had hit his head. Referee Andre Marriner, having seen the incident, walked up to Kieran Gibbs and flashed his red card. Arsenal went on to lose the match 6-0, Andre Marriner went on to apologise but that isn’t enough to keep him off our list of the worst referee decisions.

Spurs vs. United, 2005 (Roy Carroll save)

As the clock ticked towards 89 minutes, the ball fell to Pedro Mendes just over the halfway line. The Portuguese international spotted United goalkeeper Roy Carroll off his line and went for an audacious lob. Carroll spilt what should have been a routine catch, and the ball bounced over the line. United knew it was a goal, Spurs knew it was a goal. 70,000 fans in Old Trafford knew it was a goal. Yet the referee did not blow his whistle, and the linesman did not lift his flag.

Speaking years later on the incident, Pedro Mendes said: “I’ve never seen one so over the line and not given in my career. It would have been a superb goal and something to remember, scoring the winner at Old Trafford in that way.”. This incident was a defining moment that started conversations about the implementation of goal line technology.

Tottenham vs. Sunderland, 2015 (Jan Vertonghen goal)

Late in the game at White Hart Lane, Sunderland were chasing an equaliser. Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimion made his way up for a corner. Spurs won the ball and broke away. Defender Jan Vertonghen was in his own half when he received the ball, whilst Sunderland’s last man was another 20 yards closer to the Sunderland goal. Vertonghen drove into the Sunderland half before slotting the ball around the defender and into an empty net.

At no point did Vertonghen run beyond the last Sunderland man. Celebrations quickly turned into complete befuddlement when the linesman raised his flag. Speaking to Sky Sports, retired referee Dermot Gallagher called the decision “indefensible”. Fortunately for the match officials, Spurs still won the game 2-1 meaning this howler of a decision didn’t affect the overall outcome but it still high up on the list of the worst referee and linesmen decisions ever.


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