Just nine minutes into Arsenal’s important meeting at home against Manchester City, this one took a fast turn toward the lesser fancied Sunday morning nether region of: “Uh, what time do those NFL playoff games start?”
That is to say, it was very nearly not worth watching.
Not because these two well-stocked clubs don’t deserve watching; both have exciting players and both are desperately chasing their own Premiership rewards. Rather, the watchability factor slipped because of a 9th minute incident that tilted the field heavily.
Sure enough, visiting City was in charge through much of the match and emerged with the 2-0 result.
Arsenal center back Laurent Koscielny was all over City striker Edin Dzeko as a ball dropped perilously in front of Gunners goal, blatantly wrapping both arms around the Bosnian striker. Both tumbled as Dzeko moved in for a potential early strike. Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, held up the red and … well, let’s talk about it:
- It’s a tough call to make so early, but Dean made the right one (on the penalty kick, at least.) If Koscielny could have merely put a body on Dzeko, perhaps even laid an arm into him, that might have provided Dean sufficient cover to wave “play-on” or to think twice the expulsion, at least. More to the point, it might not have actually been a blatant foul. As it was, it’s a foul – and therefore a penalty kick.
- It’s a brutal development, affecting the match so dramatically, so early. But as the game’s laws are written, Dean was mostly correct here. It’s a bold, bold call and Dean is no dummy; he recognizes exactly how much moment is altering fortunes.
- For the reason I just stated – the titanic impact, that is – I wonder if City might have complained too much if Dean would have awarded the penalty kick and kept Koscielny on the field? I tend to believe most of us would have had little problem with that.
- I’ve said before, I really wish the game’s lawmakers would review the double jeopardy involved in these decisions. Awarding a penalty kick (about 80 percent chance of scoring) and reducing a side to 10 men is so very harsh. I understand the argument: “Don’t foul!” But we know there is so very much fouling and contact that goes on near goal. So these important decisions inside the 18 aren’t really about fouling, per se. So much of that does go on. It really comes down to chance and providence; it’s really more about which clear fouls are spotted by the man in the middle.
I said “double jeopardy” on the decision. I noticed a few minutes later where NBC colleague and pal Arlo White reminded mentioned on Twitter that my assessment may be a tad low:
Catch up on all of Friday’s EURO qualification action, as two more teams have booked a ticket to France.
Spain 4-0 Luxembourg
Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla hadn’t scored a competitive goal for Spain in more than six years, but he scored twice today to help earn his country a berth in EURO 2016. Cazorla and Paco Alcacer scored all four goals for the Spanish, while Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas became Spain’s all-time leader in assists. However, both David Silva of Manchester City and Alvaro Morata of Juventus were forced off with injuries, with Morata’s looking to be serious.
Switzerland 7-0 San Marino
Switzerland led just 1-0 at halftime, but a six-goal second half which included three penalty kicks means the Swiss have secured qualification from Group E for EURO 2016. As expected, Switzerland dominated every aspect of the match against minnows San Marino, and Vladimir Petkovic’s side had seven different goalscorers.
[ MORE: Thursday’s EURO 2016 roundup — Northern Ireland qualify ]
England 2-0 Estonia
England remained perfect in Group E, taking their ninth win from nine matches today at Wembley. Theo Walcott‘s great scoring form from Arsenal carried over to the national side, opening the scoring just before halftime. In the second half, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy came on as a substitute and assisted to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who made it 2-0. With a few minutes to play, Tottenham teenager Dele Alli got a short run in his England debut.
Elsewhere in EURO qualifying
Macedonia 0-2 Ukraine
Slovakia 0-1 Belarus
Slovenia 1-1 Lithuania
Liechtenstein 0-2 Sweden
Moldova 1-2 Russia
Montenegro 2-3 Austria
After scoring five goals against Newcastle United, Sergio Aguero may have to wait a bit of time to get back to scoring in the Premier League.
The Manchester City striker lasted just 25 minutes in Argentina’s World Cup qualifier on Thursday, as he was stretchered off with a hamstring injury.
Aguero underwent testing in Argentina, and told the local media “I think I’m going to be out for a month.”
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Manchester City and Argentina teammate Nicolas Otamendi said Aguero was in tears in the dressing room, and some reports have penned the injury as a torn hamstring.
If Aguero were to be ruled out for a month, he would miss City’s Champions League clash vs. Sevilla, as well as the massive Manchester derby away at United on October 25.
To make matters worse for City supporters, David Silva was forced off after just ten minutes while playing for Spain today. Silva took a harsh challenge from behind, and hobbled off with what looked to be an ankle injury. If Silva’s injury ends up being more than just a knock, City could be without their two most important players in the attack.