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March 2021

When does commitment cross the line? Eccentric refereeing in the PSG v Arsenal Champions League match.

by Usama and Andrew Crawshaw

The ref reviews for Arsenal’s EPL games and the weekly ref reports of the EPL are the result of work by a very dedicated team.  They are time consuming and the intention is that they will be an unprecedented season-long research programme.

Given this project has become our priority programme, there sadly isn’t time available to undertake the same level of thorough referee reviews for the Uefa Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup games.

We will however try and prepare a quick review of these games in the other competitions highlighting the main talking points as we see them and supporting our views with appropriate video clips.

The referee for the PSG match was Viktor Kassai of Hungary.  He is 41 and has been on the FIFA list since 2003.  A vastly experienced official with appearances in the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.  He is indirectly responsible for the the introduction of the fifth and sixth officials on the goal lines following a poor decision he made in the 2011 group stage of the 2012 Euros when he disallowed a Ukrainian goal he believed had been cleared off the line by John Terry.

Subsequently it was proven that the ball had crossed the line.  However it was also seen that the attack started from an offside position.  Uefa acted on the goal line controversy but not the offside.

Turning to our game against PSG, in his post match interview Arsène Wenger said that he was surprised by the intensity with which PSG started the match.

But we were struck by the number of times that this intensity and commitment seemed to cross the line into foul play, and how little Mr Kassai seemed to care about it.  Here are our thoughts on the most blatant of these incidents and the other Important Decisions (second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals) he got right.

There were 13 incidents of note including both goals

Incident 1 – Minute 1 – PSG score a clean goal, Cavani meeting a good cross and placing a powerful header past Ospina.  No video clip necessary.

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Incident 2 – Minute 6

Mustafi Matuidi

Mustafi Matuidi_0002

Mustafi under pressure from Matuidi, clears the ball on the stretch. Matuidi being nowhere near the ball casually steps on the face of the left ankle of Mustafi. The studs of Matuidi’s foot were in firm contact for a substantial amount of time. This was a clear act of dangerous injury inducing foul play from Matuidi.  The ball had gone and Matuidi could have angled away from Mustafi  rather than run straight over him.  Given the offence, this should have been a straight red card. The ref even failed to call a foul and instead signalled Mustafi to stop rolling and get up.

Incident 3 – Minute 9

Coquelin Veratti

Coquelin plays the ball past Veratti, when Veratti jumps two footed, way above the ball, with studs showing and takes out Coquelin’s left knee.  There can be no doubt that this tackle is reckless and out of control.  Another clear act of serious injury foul play. Also should have been a red card. But the referee only gave a yellow card.

The talk that “Player X shouldn’t get a red card this early in a big match, as it will spoil the game” has been repeated so many times by TV media, radio, newspapers and journalists that it has somehow subconsciously become part of the refereeing now. And this is totally wrong. If a player commits an offence that warrants a red card or yellow card, then he must be punished so, with none of this “spoiling the game” crap.

Incident 4 – Min 11

Cazorla Marquinhos

Cazorla who was on the counter attack gets kicked down from behind by Marquinhos. The ref gives no foul, plays no advantage and keeps running as if nothing happened. Marquinhos clearly escaped a booking here.

Incident 5 – Min 24

Coquelin Krychowiak

Coquelin Krychowiak_0006

Both players going for the ball in 50-50. Both players stretch out and raise their foot. Krychowiak raised his foot a little higher than Coquelin. Krychowiak and Coquelin both made contact with the ball, with Coquelin eventually winning it. But Krychowiak went down and Coquelin got wrongly booked for a same clean challenge that Krychowiak made.

Incident 6 – Min 34

Coquelin Clean tackle

Coquelin wins the ball with a clean tackle, ref decides to call a foul handing an advantage to PSG. – The classic PGMO ‘Phantom Foul’ routine.

Incident 7 – Min 45

Sanchez Krychowiak

Krychowiak charges in with a very high right knee and hits Sanchez in the chest. Clear reckless play and no yellow card given. Ref only gave a foul.

Incident 8 – Min 53

Dive Di Maria

A good decision by Mr Kassai correctly calling it a non-penalty. And Di Maria doing what he does best pretending to be a dolphin or a bird shot in the sky.  The minimal initial contact was outside the penalty area.

Incident 9 – Min 54

Veratti Sanchez Pulling

Blatant foul play from Veratti, with the ref merely standing by admiring the scene. Veratti still on the pitch and not sent off.

Incident 10 – Min 60

Bellerin Fouled

Bellerin clearly fouled but nothing given. PSG launch a counter attack. Thanks ref. another PGMO classic.

Incident 11 – Min 77 – Alexis scores a clean goal – no video clip necessary

Incident 12 – Min 88

Meunier Giroud dissent

Nacho spots Giroud’s run and plays a throw-in. Muenier spots Giroud running behind defence and grabs hold of him and eventually pulls him down. But my word! The ref gives a foul against Giroud! Looks like the ref is a graduate of “Riley’s School of Refereeing” which when abbreviated is RSOR, and makes as much sense as the decision itself.

Giroud rises up and show clear dissent which the ref punishes him for, with a yellow card. Correct card. But when ref’s foul decision making is so poor that he gives the foul against the fouled player, it develops a sense of oppression in the mind of a player, which leads to him protest.

Incident 13 – Min 90 + 3

Giroud Veratti

Giroud Veratti_0007

Giroud Veratti_0008

Giroud Veratti and Marquinhos

Here Giroud body checks to block Veratti (not needed). Veratti stretches his feet and trips Giroud (not needed).  Then comes on the real unpunished villain of the incident Marquinhos. He pushes Giroud in to Veratti, which causes Veratti to fall down (Giroud is 193cm [6’3″] tall and weighs 96 kg [15 st 2 lbs] so of course any collision can cause such result). Marquinhos keeps pushing Giroud and escapes scot free.

Given that both Giroud and Veratti tried to engage each other in trips and block a second yellow card is justified for slightly unsporting behaviour. But here is where you can see the real failure of the ref. He stopped the match off the ball so far away to whistle for a little incident by both players. Whereas he clearly failed to do the same when Veratti pulled down Sanchez off the ball, right in front of his eyes.

Both teams will be without an important player for the next match but it should have been a lot worse for PSG who should be without both Matuidi and Veratti for longer period as they should both have had a straight red card and Arsenal should have been playing against 9 men for 81 minutes.

Most commentators were saying that we were lucky to escape with a draw.  Correct refereeing should have ensured a sufficient numerical advantage for a very different game to have taken place with a totally different result the likely outcome.

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32 comments to When does commitment cross the line? Eccentric refereeing in the PSG v Arsenal Champions League match.

  • thierryhenry22

    Ooh. Good article. I didn’t feel like we were being let down by refereeing during the game because TV and commentary really try to not go there with replays or mentioning bad decisions. In hindsight we done well it seems- which I always thought we did eventually.

    We have a great chance of topping the group this year though! COYG

  • ARSENAL 13

    He is a Kasai (butcher). How come we get him often?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Great work guys , thank you . Hope others put it up on other sites and their own social media , to give an ‘ alternate’ view of what happened and that which is contrary to the accepted official commentary .

    That point does seem truly well earned and painfully gained .

  • Mandy Dodd

    Can only agree with 13, we see far too much of this ref…..I hope that it it for this season.
    He is known for being strict, he certainly was not strict on PSG

  • finsbury

    The official in the Barcelona Home match last season was equally awful but he did not crown his performance with such an obvious and blatant (m’lud) bungle. Koscielny may have been marginally concussed (?) and possibly shouldn’t have played (not sure he’d listen to me!), what excuse do we have for the UEFA representative?

    Strange affairs.

  • nicky

    It’s all very well drawing attention to the failures of match officials, but what can be done to put things right?
    Until we have sophisticated video technology coupled with an appeals procedure, we are lumbered with human nature and failings…..a sorry outlook. 😉

  • para

    Great thanks for providing this information, something the media football should be really doing, what with all the equipment they have.

    Watching the match, i thought that PSG were really pulling a fast one by fouling out of sight of the ref, and trying in every illegal way to win ground on us. They most surely were not above hurting our players too.

    Well highlighted the “hidden” fouls and activities. Why does the media not realise that if they take active part in constructive critism of the refs, that this will improve them?

    To Arsenal:
    After my second watch, i found that Arsenal were also doing these things, albeit as a reaction to PSG.

    I know i am supposed to be biased but i cant help thinking about number 8 – Min 53:
    I can see a contact on his right shoulder, then his ass outside the box and contact on his lower back inside the box. These were done by Monreal. If they were enough to make DiMaria fall? I dont know, but they were enough to distract him in every case.

    Number 9:
    Senchez was pulled, but he did not just fall. Leave it at that.

    Number 12:
    Giroud should not have initiated contact, and then pretended to be fouled. Should have got the yellow for it, but it came anyway.

    Watch 9 and 12 closely again to see what i mean.

    This is dangerous especially as we know how one sided the refs can be, but still pleasing that at least the other teams will now know Arsenal is not soft anymore, and they will soon stop playing that way against us all the time.

    Number 13:
    Giroud Veratti. Both got what they deserved, a 2nd yellow and red.

    Number 7:
    A very good example of the “out to damage” fouls.

  • bjtgooner

    A good report, thanks guys, I appreciate the time and effort put in to produce it.

    Kassai is a very poor referee, one of many and possibly one of the worst. He seemed to have it in for Giroud from the instant Giroud came on.

    My impression was that PSG were deliberately trying to “wind up” our players using unsporting tactics – in the hope of producing a retaliation which the the butcher would be very happy to punish.

    Unfortunately we have seen similar antics many times in the CL and will continue to see them until competent refs and/or video technology are introduced.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Usama and Andrew

    I would disagree regarding Monreal Dimaria incident as Monreal had contact in the box as well.
    I think it was not a foul and Dimaria may have fallen due to over stretching.

    The tef was correct in not giving a foul though.

  • Usama Zaka


    Yes there wa some bodily contact by both players on each other. But Monreal made no foul contact as in push, trip, etc.

    As for Di Maria he miskicked the ball out of play and then fell down. I was just highlighting the overall nature of conning play 🙂

  • Rantetta

    Thank you UA. Thank you U&A. (see wot i done there).

    Having watched this match with no sound I questioned all of the highlighted decisions – not having to hear gloating commentators wetting their knickers about the concept of Arsenal being overrun, and trying to tell me something quite different to what I’m seeing. I’ll bet that most was said about any foul on an Arsenal player.

    As for the reffing, there’s an established way of reffing Arsenal, and you saw that in Paris. You saw it against Bayern at the Ems a couple seasons ago. Likewise at Nou camp 2011, against Milan home & away, Braga away, etc, etc.

    Walter called it ‘Bussaca moment’, and isn’t he the chap who picks the refs for these matches?

    I thought it was clever to not start Giroud as it’s clear he’ll be targeted with the ghost fouls, in the same way that happens in the Prem.
    Just make sure you book any key players at the first opportunity – whether they’ve fouled or not. Look straight through players who’ve committed obvious fouls, allowing advantage, in the hope the move will break down anyway, and then fail to book the offender (with commentators singing about ‘keeping the game flowing’).

    It’s within this context I feel Arsenal played very well on Tuesday night.
    (Xhaka would’ve been booked as soon as a PSG player kicked Him, if he’d started. Just as Coq was booked – for what?

    The report inc. .gifs is superb.
    Thanks again U&A, Usama and Andrew.
    I’m ‘well impressed’.

  • Rantetta

    *I’ll bet that nowt was said about any foul on an Arsenal player*

  • Mick

    Thank you Usama and Andrew for an excellent report, but just to show that things really do even out in the end can you show the 13 incidents that went in Arsenals favour?

  • Goonermikey

    Excellent stuff again chaps. Just one request. (Although as a confirmed technophobe I have now idea how challenging it might be.) Is it possible in future to open the vide clips in a new window? In its current format, I then have to go back to the article and scroll down to the clips each time. Just a thought…………..or maybe its just me?!

  • Usama Zaka


    If your mouse has a middle click (the scroll) press it on the link, and it will open in a new tab. Another solution, hold “Ctrl” and press the left click to open in a new tab.

    Another solution, Right click on the link, then select to open in a new tab or window.

  • Usama Zaka


    There are 3-4 incidents that went in our favour. One was when Monreal slightly tugged Di Maria by the waist early in the first half inside the midfield and ref didnt give a foul. One corner kick that PSG were denied when the ball clearly came off Bellerin. One throw-in that PSG were denied in the second half when the ball clearly came off Monreal. And another was a slight push by Sanchez which the ref ignored in the first half.

    But we also didn’t include one wrong foul against Giroud when he going to be in a 1on1 situation, one wrong throw-in against us when the ball last came off Maxwell… mainly the small incidents.

    There were no decisions of any major significance that went our way (yellows, reds, pens, goals, attack-breaking fouls, injury fouls)

  • David M

    @ para I tend to agree with your assessment. There were a few of the decisions “that went against us” may have been looking through red + white glasses.

    Personally the Giroud + Veratti was hand bags at 10 paces and you could have easily let it go without any issue, Marquinos should have been yellowed.

    I also cannot agree that Mutuidi deserved Red. It was absolutely unintentional. It should have been a foul and perhaps a yellow, but no way that is a red. Also feel Veratti’s first yellow was ok as a yellow. He was a bit out of control, but was not diving in which is really dangerous rather just in the air for the block.

    The big issues that i also noticed in the game that were really bad were Veratti on Sanchez – Absolutely 2nd yellow and a red and the ref was looking right at it…right at it!! That is when you question agendas. Incident 4 Cazorla getting hacked down AGAIn right in front of the ref, no advantage, no yellow, 5, The foul goes against Coq when he wins the ball and gets his foot down quick whereas Krychowiak is a complete hack – this could have been a straight red. Coq phantom foul – agenda. Bellerin no foul when he gets so obviously bundled – agenda

    Pretty disgusting performance overall by a ref deemed to be one of the best. If he is one of the best then it says everything about the state of football

  • Mick

    Thanks Usama, my comment was obviously a bit tongue in cheek but I am sure you got the intended message!
    I watched the game on telly and agreed with your observations and that nothing of much consequence went our way.
    Twas ever thus.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal


    Great insight in your comments re Wenger not playing Xhaka n Giroud. The aaa and Wob are making a joke of Wenger fot not plYing Xhaka without knowing the actual reason.
    Xhaka and Giroud wud have been yellow carded on the slightest of contact as it was proved when Giroud was sent off in just 20 min of game time.

  • Usama Zaka


    Since there are two or three Micks commenting here nowadays, I got confused, “is this the real Mick” 😀

  • Menace

    You’re right Usama – it’s Mick taking the Mick out of Mick.

  • Menace

    Incident 11 – Video required. The goal was clean but look at the fouling on Giroud! Thiago was trying for a son, he was hugging on so tight that Kassai was inhibited by the excitement otherwise he would have found a pseudo foul to stop play.

  • Menace

    Incident 13. The assumption that it is Giroud who checks Veratti is incorrect. Observation is key. Giroud stops & Veratti runs into Giroud, goes down, kicks out at Giroud & then comes the pushing etc. Kassai has already decided that Quatari lubrication is sufficient to blame the Arsenal.

    The oil in the game has begun to make many things slippery. We know that but it is not so easy to find which joints are used for lubrication.

  • Usama Zaka

    Haha, Menace. But on the serious side, yes, in the Sanchez’s goal, Thiago Silva was fouling Giroud. Even if their goalie had saved Sanchez’s shot, then Giroud was through clear on goal.

  • Jambug

    David M

    Great assessments.

  • Mick

    It is indeed the real Mick. Just to avoid confusion with the other Micks I am considering changing my name to MickHazel, Hazel being my beloved Chocolate Lab.

  • MickHazel

    Testing my new name.
    COYG, Arsene knows best.

  • Rantetta


    Thanks for your comment.

    I don’t claim to know the reasons players are chosen to start. However, I’d refer to Mr Wengers recent comment about Oooospina, that ‘he sees (players) every day in training’. Arsene therefore knows what he’s looking for and is able to formulate a game plan.

    Xhaka has been quoted as saying he’s ready to get “stuck in”, and other things which would be perfectly acceptable from say, JoeyBarton, but Granit isn’t English, hasn’t beaten up teammates or other folk on the street, doesn’t appear to come from a mightily dysfunctional family, etc.
    Xhaka has history of being sent off a few times (never mind the retaliation, ie Vieira). But rest assured, Granit joins a very long list of Arsenal players, current and former, for whom ‘breathing in the wrong direction’ will earn the Wrath of the footballing Bollockocrasy. (Mark my word, or not). (©) ?

    What really excites me about the current squad is that many more choices can be made about the formation and tactics of our beloved Arsenal.

    That’s a nice trio of comments, Menace.

    Excellent clarification of the ref decisions not found in the main article, Usama.

  • Jambug

    Sounds good to me Mick.

    In the same vein and to avoid confusion with any other Jambugs that may be lurking out there, hence forth I shall be known as JambugCurlyWurly.

  • Omerta


    Bit late perhaps, but what also works is: press the shift key on your keyboard while clicking the link. It will then open in a new window (works in most browsers)

  • JP

    Thanks U&A for all the work you put into these reports. I was always under the impression that we get a lot of calls against us, but before I stumbled onto UA, I was left seething on my own week after week. It is refreshing to see that there are other people seeing the calls in the same way as you see it, and not how it is portrayed by the media.

    The commentators I had to endure on the broadcast in South Africa almost made the game unbearable. Danny Higginbotham is an idiot of note, and I did not catch the other commentator’s name, but they were clearly intent on bashing Arsenal at every opportunity (most of which they created themselves).

    Regarding the decisions, I nearly threw my remote at the TV when Giroud was pulled back, and the ref gave the foul to PSG. Di Maria’s dive was shocking, he only went to ground because he knew he would never get to the ball again after his poor touch took it away. Verratti is a deplorable character (one of the most underrated players in Europe, according to Higginbotham) who is only interested in fouling and winding up the opposition. He could have been sent off on more than one occasion. I have a friend who supports Chelsea, and I watched both matches of the tie between Chelsea and PSG last season with him. Verratti acted in exactly the same way then, and he also got away with it.

    It must be so frustrating for our players to come up against this type of refereeing week in, week out. I cannot help to wonder when it will start to level out

  • WalterBroeckx

    Kassai as the ref and getting a point at PSG…. this has turned in to a golden point for me now.