In Depth

Alexis Sanchez: Should Arsenal handball goal have stood?

Former referees divided over Mark Clattenburg's decision to award Gunners' first goal against Hull

Arsenal returned to winning ways on Saturday, relieving some of the pressure on their manager Arsene Wenger. But their first goal in the 2-0 over Hull was controversial as Alexis Sanchez clearly handled the ball in the act of scoring.

The Chilean's initial shot ricocheted off Tigers' keeper Eldin Jakupovic and up onto his right hand before it crossed the line. Referee Mark Clattenburg consulted with his assistant before awarding the goal and the moment was key to the outcome.

The goal came at a crucial time, reports Sam Morshead of MailOnline. "With the game locked at 0-0 and half-time approaching, and with Hull having enjoyed a fair number of chances in the Gunners' penalty area, the grumbles were growing louder inside the Emirates."

It amounted to "a great big dollop" of good fortune, says Morshead, that has divided pundits and even referees. It was even reported that the referee apologised to Hull players at half time.

But former World Cup final referee Howard Webb believes he was right to award the goal.

"It was not deliberate handball," he writes in The Times. "His hand was not in an unnatural position. When you kick a ball with your left foot your right arm comes out. The ball rebounded straight back and hit Sanchez's arm... there was no movement of the arm to the ball.

"I would argue that even if a defender had been hit on the line on the hand in a similar position after the ball had ricocheted back as they tried to kick it away, then it should not have been a penalty or a red card."

However, he accepts that other referees may not agree. One of those is Keith Hackett, another former ref writing in the Daily Telegraph. He says: "I thought it was a clear handball and should have been disallowed."

He sees the incident very differently to Webb and believes it was deliberate. "Sanchez's hand moves towards the ball. His left foot was moving forward and it would be natural for his left hand to do the same - but instead his right hand comes up. I also noticed that Sanchez had his palm flat with his hand facing out."

It "looked odd" he says, which explains why Clattenburg asked the opinion of assistant Jake Collins who, he believes, should be disappointed with his advice.

Hackett says there could be repercussions for Clattenburg. "I was interested to hear that Mark had apologised to the Hull players, and that is a mark of him as a referee and a man – although I am not sure his bosses at PGMOL [which oversees match officials] will be quite as pleased he apologised as referees are not encouraged to do so."

There is one way to end such controversies, says Webb in the Times. "One way around it would be to change the law to say that you cannot score a goal if the ball comes off an arm regardless of whether it was deliberate or not. That is something I would support as it would bring greater clarity."

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