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Were Orlando Pirates lucky not to concede a second penalty?

1:47 AM MYT 07/02/2022
Masixole Bambiso PSL referee
The Buccaneers went on to win the match in Soweto 1-0 to book their spot in the last 16 at the expense of Benni McCarthy’s team

There was controversy in Orlando Pirates’ Nedbank Cup game on Sunday against AmaZulu after referee Masixole Bambiso neglected to penalise Goodman Mosele’s handball.

McCarthy was seething during his post-match interview, feeling that his side had been short-changed by the match officials.

For many watching, it seemed an obvious handball from Pirates midfielder Goodman Mosele when he went in for a sliding challenge on the edge of his own box, falling clumsily to the ground and in the process, the ball making contact with his arm. Clear enough in real-time, replays also showed conclusively that there was contact with the arm by the Bucs man.

But was it enough for a penalty to be awarded?

Not necessarily so, because there is a technicality in the rules, as was also pointed out by the SuperSport TV panel at half-time, which states that the following scenario, is NOT a penalty:

“The ball makes contact with a player’s supporting arm/hand. A player that falls to the ground or goes into a sliding tackling needs to protect himself using the support of the arm. Therefore it is usually not a handball if the ball hits the supporting arm/hand. On the contrary, it can lead to a handball situation if a player goes into a sliding tackle with his arm extended without using it as support.”

Some may argue that the ball was handled for a second time by Mosele, but again it looked more clumsy than intentional, although that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Would VAR have helped?

South African football does not have VAR yet, although it might not have made any difference if there was.

That’s because, in what was such a tight call, there was not really any clear and visible error from the referee, at best it seemed 50-50. And in such instances, the VAR panel is instructed to go with the ref’s initial call.

Ultimately, Mosele got rather lucky as it could have gone against him on another day, but at the same time, there was also enough justification for Bambiso not to point to the spot.

What the referee clearly did get wrong, was to blow the whistle to stop the game after the incident, before giving Pirates possession courtesy of a drop ball.

There had certainly been no foul from an AmaZulu player, and so therefore, if Bambiso deemed that it had not been a handball from Mosele, then surely the game should have just been allowed to continue.

Somewhat ironically, Pirates did end up conceding a penalty, late on in the game after an Abel Mabaso handball, but Tapelo Xoki's spot-kick was saved by goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane.