Ally McCoist labeled it a “disgrace,” and Jermaine Jenas said Newcastle were “robbed” as a controversial late penalty decision deprived Eddie Howe’s side of a memorable victory at Paris St-Germain.
Aleksander Isak’s first-half goal in Tuesday’s Champions League tie seemed poised to stun the hosts. Missed chances and some notable saves from Nick Pope gave the visiting fans hope that their side would complete a double over the French champions in Group F.
But, in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Ousmane Dembele’s cross seemed to hit Tino Livramento’s body, and the ball bounced up onto his arm.
After reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor, referee Szymon Marciniak awarded a penalty, which Kylian Mbappe promptly converted to secure a 1-1 draw.
“I’m fuming,” said former Newcastle midfielder Jenas on TNT Sports. “What is Livramento meant to do with his arms? Wrap them around his back?”
McCoist, providing commentary for TNT, added, “That is absolutely never a penalty. If we’re giving a penalty for that, then it is a disgrace.”
One of the world’s best referees, Marciniak, officiated the game, having been in the middle for the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France. He also took charge of June’s Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.
He earlier dismissed PSG’s appeals for a penalty when Anthony Gordon seemed to foul Achraf Hakimi inside the box. Initially, he also turned down calls from PSG players for a spot-kick following the Livramento incident.
After being prompted by the video assistant referee to check the monitor, he believed there was enough evidence to award the hosts the 98th-minute penalty.
“The referee is the best in the business and was great for the majority of the night,” added McCoist.
“It comes off his chest and hits his left elbow… that’s absolutely never a penalty. The entire night will be remembered for that decision.”
On X, Alan Shearer, the ex-Newcastle striker, posted: “Every single player delivered a superb battling away performance. A disgusting decision shouldn’t spoil it.”
What does the handball law say?
According to the laws of the game, when deciding a handball decision in a game, referees have three key considerations.
- Whether it is a “deliberate action” by the player – ie have they moved their arm towards the ball?
- The proximity of the player from the ball and the speed it hits them on the arm/hand;
- If the hand or arm is in “an unnatural position”, – ie away from the body
The referee ruled the Livramento handball as having an unnatural arm position, even if it wasn’t intentional and the Newcastle defender couldn’t react quickly enough.
Would it have been given in the Premier League?
It gets trickier for fans, players, and managers to grasp because various competitions can add extra factors for referees to think about when it comes to the rules of the game.
Premier League officials make allowances when the ball hits another part of the body before touching a player’s arm.
On that basis, it is possible Livramento would not have been penalised had it been a Premier League match.
In April, the UEFA football board, an independent advisory group, suggested that “UEFA should make it clear that no handball offense should be called on a player if the ball is first deflected from his own body.”
The Daily Telegraph was informed by Keith Hackett, the former general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body overseeing English referees, that UEFA did not put this recommendation into practice for its own competitions.
“Hackett said the Uefa board recommended in their guidelines last April for the upcoming season that they should make it clear not to call a handball offense on a player if the ball had previously deflected from their own body. However, this recommendation was not implemented, and Newcastle suffered the consequences at the Parc des Princes.”
Regardless of how the rules were interpreted, Newcastle boss Eddie Howe was not happy with the decision.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty,” he said.
“You’re not considering how fast the ball moves in those replays. It initially hits his chest. Even if it had hit his hands first, it still wouldn’t be a penalty because he’s very close. However, you could argue the case more in that situation.”
“When the ball first hits his chest and then his low hand, it isn’t a penalty. I’m not allowed to summarize it. Clearly, I can’t express my inner thoughts.”
“I thought the referee was having a good game up until this moment. He had been strong.”
If Newcastle had won, they would have controlled their fate in Group F.
Yet, to advance to the last 16, they now need to defeat AC Milan in their final group game and rely on Borussia Dortmund to avoid defeat against PSG.