Are Tottenham ‘lucky’ to still be in the FA Cup?

Are Tottenham ‘lucky’ to still be in the FA Cup?

Tottenham booked their place in the 4th round of the FA Cup thanks to a resounding 2-0 victory over title rivals Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. This was a tie that always promised to be tightly fought given both sides current league standing, but in truth the replay was anything but. Son Heung-Min’s stunning first half thunderbolt laid the foundations for a comprehensive victory that was capped off by a late strike from Belgian winger Nacer Chadli.

But were Spurs fortunate to be given this FA Cup reprieve in the first place?

It is easy to gloss over the fact that Tottenham were only minutes from a disappointing 3rd round exit, rescued by a controversial late penalty decision that gave Harry Kane the opportunity to force a replay.

So was this a penalty or not?

As is the case with most controversial decisions there doesn’t appear to be much of a consensus. Kevin Kilbane backed the referee’s decision to award the spot kick whilst speaking on BBC One:

“It is harsh but it was hand to ball – Nathan Dyer has flicked his hand out at the ball going past him.”

Alan Shearer and Martin O’Neill gave a more critical assessment of the decision:

“I think that’s a very poor decision – it’s not a penalty at all, Nathan Dyer doesn’t even know where the ball is. It’s very harsh,” said Shearer. 

O’Neill added: “I agree with Alan, it’s a very harsh penalty – Nathan Dyer has just turned round and doesn’t know where the ball is. Doesn’t it have to be deliberate?”

Deliberate? Intentional? Seeking to gain an advantage? We hear these phrases bandied about when assessing hand ball decisions, but what actually is the law?

According to both FIFA and the FA, handling of the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with ball with his hand or arm.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The officials are advised to take the following into consideration as well:

-The movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)

-The distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)

-The position of the hand does not necessarily mean there is an infringement

-Touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard etc.) counts as an infringement

-Hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard etc.) counts as an infringement.

The law is completely down to the interpretation of the match officials, because so few truly intentional hand ball incidents occur. Aside from the infamous Luis Suarez and Diego Maradona episodes, there are but a handful of clearly deliberate acts of handling the ball. No wonder decisions end up being so widely contentious.

In the case of Nathan Dyer, Bobby Madley had every right to award the penalty because the Leicester player clearly moved his hand towards the ball, the intent of which remains debatable. Were Spurs fortuitous to get the decision? Of course they were, but this doesn’t mean that the decision was a major miscarriage of justice either.

The frustration with the hand ball law is that it remains far from definitive. Decisions can be argued either way, and deliberated at length; some neutrals would actually argue that it is in controversy and debate that football truly has its niche. This is hardly a consolation for Leicester City fans though.

What do you think, are Spurs fortunate to be in the competition?