Double Jeopardy: Was Anthony Taylor right to send off Reece James? 

After a VAR review, the Chelsea wing-back was controversially shown a red card in Saturday afternoon’s 1-1 draw.
Image Credit: 2021-12-08 – FC Zenit Saint Petersburg v Chelsea F.C. – Photo 102.jpg//Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro)// Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

There’s no doubt officials across the Premier League have taken a more lenient approach to officiating this season. 

But the focal point of Saturday afternoon’s 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Chelsea revolved around a controversial red card decision issued to Chelsea wing-back Reece James. 

And by the letter of law referee, Anthony Taylor was correct to award the red card. 

Deemed harsh by both Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, the card significantly turned the game on its head and allowed Liverpool to press higher on ten-man Chelsea in the second half to record 15 attempts on goal to Chelsea’s two. 

“For me, it’s a bit the spoiler of the game,” Chelsea manager Tuchel said after the match. “Nobody I think wants to see that for 45 minutes; they want to see a high-level game, and even me when I’m watching on TV, I don’t like it.” 

“I have no solution now for it and no better idea at the moment, but in general, it is a spoiler.”

“The situation itself, I can understand the decision and I’m not saying it’s a wrong decision, but I did not like the way the referee checked it because, for me, he checked only the image.”

During a frantic goalline scramble, Liverpool forward Sadio Mane had a shot deflected off the line by James, who used his arm to push the ball off the line. 

Play continued, but referee Anthony Taylor was called back by the video match official to review the incident and subsequently awarded a penalty to Liverpool and a red card to James for the foul. 

Chelsea fans will feel aggrieved by the double sanction after taking an early lead which they could have held onto had James remained on the field. 

The card also forced Thomas Tuchel to change his tactics at halftime, shoring things up in defence, replacing Kai Havertz and Ngolo Kante for Thiago Silva and Mateo Kovacic. 

Embed from Getty Images

After the game, Jurgen Klopp was sympathetic to the Chelsea Manager but acknowledged the offence was a definite penalty. 

“I never liked double punishment, but if somebody ever listened to me about rule changes or rules, a lot of things would look completely different,” the Liverpool manager admitted. 

“It was absolutely harsh. Spoils the game? Yeah probably. 

“It changed everything; I liked our first half, we were really good, caused Chelsea a lot of problems. It was an incredibly intense game from Chelsea as well.”

The incident also sparked much debate on Twitter, with many questioning whether the double jeopardy rules should have applied to mitigate the sanction to just a yellow card and a penalty. 

Although the shot was less than five yards away from the player, James did handle the ball on the line and noticeably moves his arm upwards towards the ball. 

Under the laws of the game, the double jeopardy rule only applies only to accidental challenges, and in this instance, Anthony Taylor saw that Reece James had intentionally played the ball with his hands. 

FA Law 12

Where a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by a handball offence, the player is sent off wherever the offence occurs.

Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned if the offence was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off.

Though a harsh one, Taylor’s decision to send the player off was correct within the letter of the law.

It is reminiscent of a decision made against David Luiz in 2020 when the Arsenal defender was sent off after intentionally tripping Wolves’ Willian Jose inside the penalty area. 

The double jeopardy rule was argued again that day, but because the foul was intentional, David Luiz was also ejected from that game. 

Although debates will rage on around whether the ball naturally struck Reece James’ arm or whether it was intentional, the fact remains that the red card altered the outcome of what would have been a cracking game of football. 

“I would have loved to have seen the game in an 11 v 11 situation and see who comes through better, but it’s the way it is,” Jurgen Klopp concurred in his post-match press conference. 

Previous Post

Transfer Roundup: Has the Messi deal caused a seven-way striker scramble?

Next Post

Managerial Motivation Enough To Keep Columbian Superstar At Everton