Mohamed Salah did take a theatrical tumble against Cardiff – but a penalty decision was correct
Mohamed Salah will once again be accused of diving after winning another crucial penalty for Liverpool, but referee Martin Atkinson was absolutely correct in awarding a spot-kick at Cardiff yesterday. The Egyptian perhaps goes to ground too easily and somewhat theatrically, but the villain of the piece here is Sean Morrison.
Rather than use his size, weight and ability to gain an advantage, the Cardiff defender was lazy and wrapped his arms around the forward. The penalty could have been given seconds before Salah went to ground because Morrison’s arms were all over him.
Salah has suffered from an increasing problem in the English game of grappling by defenders, which too often goes unpunished. Salah, along with other forwards, has reasoned that by staying on his feet he runs the risk of not getting a penalty. He is taking the Sam Allardyce rule – go to ground. Lionel Messi stays on his feet in Spanish games, he has no need to go to ground because referees in La Liga tend to punish grappling and holding more severely than their English counterparts.
Salah’s reputation goes before him, more reason why Morrison’s challenge was ill-judged. Atkinson would also have seen previous examples on television of how Salah behaves in the penalty area and would have done his homework. He is a steady-Eddie referee and had no option in this instance to award the penalty.
To be fair to Morrison, he should have been awarded a penalty earlier when Andrew Robertson appeared to tug at his shirt as the ball was crossed into the box. However, Atkinson, who was some distance from the incident, will have felt he did not have a good enough viewing angle to be able to give a penalty.
Keith Hackett is a former referee and his e-book, You are the Ref, is out now.