James Lawton: Fifteen penalties a game is a price worth paying to end a crime everyone commits

This is a crime against which no one stands with a hint of indignation

It was painted as Survival Sunday – or not – for the beleaguered Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez. But then the pressure on both the managers and the players of Manchester City and Chelsea to begin to justify the huge discrepancy between their rewards and resources and those of Leeds United and Brentford always made that billing look more than faintly ludicrous.

Survival Sunday, did somebody say? It was more likely to be a shooting-alley Sabbath and so of course it was.

Brentford, who in the first half at Stamford Bridge played quite as splendidly as they had at their own Griffin Park before ceding a late draw, argued not altogether illegitimately that things might have been at least a little different if referee Neil Swarbrick had granted them the briefest advantage and allowed the goal of Marcello Trotta.

Brentford should have got the goal and the lead shortly before half-time but would that have staunched the goals and creativity of Oscar and Juan Mata and the late thrusts of that obdurate old guard formed by Frank Lampard and John Terry?

It is not likely, no more than that a different decision by Mark Clattenburg, when he granted Sergio Aguero the penalty that so inflamed Leeds, might have postponed significantly the dismemberment of the Championship team.

In the end Survival Sunday became the last word in the predictable enforcement of football power and wealth.

Where the really significant debate needs to start is this Monday morning.

It needs to be engaged not in the inner sanctums of Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium but the one which passes for the heart of football authority. There should be two items at the top of the agenda, both key to a much needed reappraisal of vital issues.

One concerns the enshrined lunacy that because the referee at Stamford Bridge acted upon the gut-wrenching brutality of David Luiz's foul on the young Brentford player Jake Reeves, and awarded a wholly inadequate yellow card, there is no reason for further action.

This is quite appalling. Luiz, who was seen grinning as the Brentford player was led from the field as a precaution against concussion, had slammed his shoulder into the face of the unsuspecting Reeves. You hardly needed the reruns to confirm that this was a piece of gratuitous and extremely dangerous violence. Luiz made no attempt to play the ball.

The TV analyst, and former Brentford manager, Martin Allen was – he made clear – as incensed as he had ever been in a long career in football. His colleague Ian Wright, who admitted to his own "naughtiness" on the field, agreed that in any league table of sly and dangerous conduct this surely ranked very high.

There will, of course, be the usual platitudes and evasions from within the game, depending on where anyone happened to be standing at the time, but the essential point is surely as evident as the consequences of a broken jaw.

It is that the need for retrospective justice, underpinned by explicit TV evidence and unclouded by any dreamy, time-expired notion that the authority of a referee found to be in error cannot be compromised, has never been required more urgently. If cheating and other forms of malpractice are considered to be no more than aspects of professionalism, there is surely no place for benefits of the doubt.

Issue number two rose up inexorably barely an hour later when Clattenburg unhesitatingly pointed to the spot when Leeds defender Tom Lees threw a hand in the direction of Aguero's face, then draped his arm across the Argentine's body.

Leeds were appalled and the resident TV analysts, Craig Burley and Martin Keown, apparently understood their anger. Keown, the former Arsenal defender, agreed that Aguero had been impeded but added that such penalties are rarely given. Burley compared, extremely favourably, Lees' offence with the full-scale wrestling match imposed by Juventus on Celtic in last week's Champions League game at Parkhead.

What we are invariably told on these occasions is that the sickening progression of law-breaking in the penalty area has to be treated as a matter of degree. You know the football argument well enough now. Everybody breaks the laws of the game so what would be the result of a penalty award each time it happened? On balance it would be roughly 15 penalties a game – and why, in the short and correcting term, not?

There was a lot of distress in Glasgow when Juve so blatantly grappled and grabbed and pushed at every set piece but how easily can you bleed for victims of a crime which everyone commits and against which no one in the game stands with a hint of consistency or indignation.

Aguero was judged by many to have indulged in a little sharp practice when he simply stopped running. He didn't dive, he didn't produce the nauseating performance of Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge when he reacted so theatrically to a non-existent contact, he just stopped and left the referee to make his decision. The player as usual, performed with superb professional commitment and scored two fine goals.

He will no doubt hit the net many more times but rarely will he make a better contribution to the health of football than in that moment when he said that it was time, at last, to observe the laws of the game.

It is, anyway, something to hope – and quite fervently.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links