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Replay, analysis, verdict: Thibaut Courtois red card

Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Thibaut Courtois red card from Saturday's opening game of the new season seems to be one of the bigger talking points from the game, despite Jose Mourinho's best efforts of not addressing it directly after the match.  Yes, Mr. Reporter, we get that this is what you want to talk about.  Good job asking the same question over and over to try to get sound bite.

Now, of course, Jose might actually think we were hard done by — punished, as he puts it in a later interview — but who knows how much of that is a real feeling and how much is just some futile attempt at influencing future decisions.

Regardless, let's see if referee Michael Oliver made the correct decision, as the PGMOL claimed soon after the incident.

Courtois, as last man, was shown a direct red card for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (i.e. DOGSO).  This carries with it an automatic one-match suspension, which we might or might not be appealing.

The FA provides the following official interpretation for DOGSO (part of Law 12):

Referees should consider the following circumstances when deciding whether to send off a player for denying a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity:
• the distance between the offence and the goal
• the likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball
• the direction of the play
• the location and number of defenders
• the offence which denies an opponent an obvious goalscoring opportunity may be an offence that incurs a direct free kick or an indirect free kick

If the offense qualifies as DOGSO, it must be punished by a red card.  A yellow card may be issued only if advantage is played and a goal is scored despite an offense occurring.  You might remember a situation like that occurring with Petr Cech, for example, in our 5-1 win over Spurs in the 2012 FA Cup.

  1. Defenders — this is perhaps the strongest case against a penalty.  But even if we argue that Gary Cahill is in a covering position, we're still missing a goalkeeper.  If the foul had been committed by another defender, or anyone not our goalkeeper, we might have a decent case.  But as it stands, even if Cahill gets there to challenge a shot, there's an empty net to aim at.  Pretty clear opportunity to score, that.
  2. Distance to goal — inside the area, or right on the line; either way, it's certainly close enough to count as a clear opportunity.  The times this rule usually becomes relevant is if the offense occurs around the half-way line.
  3. Distance to ball — Gomis's touch wasn't world class by any means, but the ball is well within reasonable distance, where he could it reach it in a step or two, at the time he's taken out by Courtois's dangly leg.
  4. Direction of play — perhaps a case can be made here, since the aforementioned bad touch actually seems to take the ball away from goal.  From the referee's angle (behind the ball), this may not have been obvious.  Regardless, because the ball remains close to Gomis, I'm not sure this is much of a mitigating factor at all.

So, unfortunately, the incident does seem to pass all four tests, and within a reasonable margin at that.  Sorry, Jose.  (Of course, and this is part of the problem with the way the rules are written, a lot of this down to personal interpretation, judgment, and opinion.)

Now, let's talk about ending this double-/triple-jeopardy nonsense that happens in these instances, like UEFA were supposed to start looking at a couple years ago.

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