PGMOL chief admits Mateo Kovacic was ‘extremely fortunate’ to avoid red card in Arsenal defeat

PGMOL chief Howard Webb has confessed Manchester City midfielder Mateo Kovacic should have been shown a red card in his side’s 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.

Kovacic was shown a yellow card for a tough challenge on Martin Odegaard, with VAR declining to upgrade the decision to a straight red, before another dangerous tackle on Declan Rice went unpunished by both the referee and VAR.

The decision not to dismiss Kovacic proved particularly controversial as it drew similarities to a challenge from Chelsea’s Malo Gusto which saw him shown a straight red in his side’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa.

Webb argued Gusto’s red card was the correct call and acknowledged Kovacic should have met a similar fate.

“This is clearly a poor tackle and I am pretty confident if a red card had been given by Michael Oliver on the day it would have been a very straightforward, ‘Check complete’,” he told Mic’d Up. “But he doesn’t. He issues a yellow card. I think there are a few differences here: the player, Kovacic, comes into the tackle with the right leg.

“There’s some weight on the left leg as he lunges in, the right heel hits the ground and then the contact is a little bit more to the side with an upright foot as opposed to a side-on foot that we saw with Gusto.

“A few small differences I think that led the VAR to think that the on-field decision here of yellow card wasn’t clearly and obviously incorrect and therefore check completing it, feeling that if he had intervened it would have been a re-refereeing of that decision by the referee on the field.”

Declan Rice, Mateo KovacicDeclan Rice, Mateo Kovacic

Kovacic went in hard on Rice / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Webb continued: “I do [think he was fortunate]. I mean obviously the VAR can’t get involved, second yellows are something that the VAR is able to get involved in but I think he was an extremely fortunate player to stay on the field of play.

“The referee, one of our best referees, one of the best referees in the world, Michael Oliver will no doubt review that.”

Arsenal fans were relieved as the missed call on Kovacic did not impact the game, which was settled by Gabriel Martinelli’s deflected strike late on.

The win saw Arsenal climb ahead of City into second place in the Premier League, two points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side and level on points with early leaders Tottenham Hotspur.


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