Why Sadio Mane's red card against Manchester City was the correct decision from referee Jon Moss

Fans and pundits were divided over the Liverpool forward's sending off but the rule book shows they should not feel aggrieved by the decision

Mark Critchley
Etihad Stadium
Saturday 09 September 2017 14:29
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Sadio Mane was sent off in the first-half following this high boot on goalkeeper Ederson
Sadio Mane was sent off in the first-half following this high boot on goalkeeper Ederson

Whether it turned the match in Manchester City’s favour or not, the sending off of Liverpool’s Sadio Mané for a high challenge on goalkeeper Ederson certainly frayed tempers.

Gary Neville, not partial to either of these clubs, was damning in his criticism of this game’s referee. “I’m sorry Jon Moss, you’ve just ruined a spectacle there,” he said while on commentary duties.

His disappointment at the decision was meagre compared to the anger in the away end, among supporters who had seen a chance to equalise result in their best player receiving his marching orders.

Mané’s challenge certainly looked innocent enough on first viewing, which was of course the only viewing that Moss had. The Senegalese’s eyes were on the bouncing ball, which was there to be won in a 50/50 challenge with Ederson. Had he met the ball cleanly, he would have had the beating of City’s ‘keeper and all but certain to score.

Unfortunately, none of that matters. What matters is that his challenge for the ball constituted serious foul play – one of the seven offences that under the laws of the game should be punished by a red card.

To quote directly from the rulebook - specifically Law 12 on fouls and misconduct, under the unambiguously-titled section ‘Sending-off offences’: “A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play. A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.”


While the first sentence invites interpretation, the second does not. It is hard to argue that in attempting to play the ball at such a height, Mané did not endanger Ederson’s safety. Ederson would certainly claim as much, what with him ending the match with a sizeable bandage on his left cheek after scans at City’s nearby medical facility.

Of course, that will not satisfy some and there is a defensible argument in saying the rules should favour those who look to play the ball and not the man. The truth is, however, that many of those making that case this weekend could be arguing the opposite the next, once one of their own players receives a high boot to the head.

That is partly why Video Assistant Referees (VAR) and replays of controversial incidents are not a cure-all for controversy and will not end the precious ‘pub debate’. Even after several replays, people were divided about this decision. The only reference can be the rulebook and in this case it does not rule in Mané’s favour.

The dismissal hampered Liverpool, whose heads collectively dropped after a decision they perceived to be an injustice. Yet however hard-done-by they felt, they should have mirrored the attitude of Neville’s colleague and an Anfield great.

Jamie Carragher was clear, it was a red card, and were he out on the pitch we can only assume he would have demanded something stronger than the meek response Klopp’s depleted side put up.

Liverpool can feel aggrieved that Mané was put in the position to make the offending challenge, that the bounce of the ball invited him into the challenge and thus the offence ‘serious foul play’, but they cannot feel aggrieved about the decision itself. Those are the rules.

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