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An outfield player in goal is a man overboard


Last week, I talked about a specific move during the Real Sociedad-Barcelona game. Four feinted attempts to take a free kick with the same number of Real Sociedad players standing in offside positions; the ball ended in the back of the net but the goal was disallowed. It was a strange move, and quite rightly ruled out. This week, there was another unusual move when Espanyol goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte raced off his line then rashly kicked Ceballos in the calf. In the process, he also touched the ball, which went directly to Rodrygo, who scored - but in an offside position. [Referee] Melero López disallowed the goal, but VAR warned him that Lecomte’s action made him guilty of a serious foul - it effectively impeded an imminent goal-scoring opportunity. It was true. Without that foul, Ceballos would have been clear to slot into an empty net.

Lecomte kicks Ceballos.
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Lecomte kicks Ceballos.JESUS ALVAREZ ORIHUELADiarioAS

Espanyol unable to make a substitution

So a foul and a free-kick was awarded. I kept wondering if VAR was created for these kinds of moves (several Espanyol players felt Ceballos had dived) but since we were already in stoppage time and with the score at 1-2 we can’t really argue that it was a decisive decision. We’ll accept it. An already messy situation got even worse as the goalkeeper had been sent off, so an outfield player had to go in goal for the resulting spot-kick. The question was, had Espanyol used up their five substitutions? The answer was no. But they had exhausted the three substitution windows, opportunities when changes are allowed to be made. Football’s old rules have been successively split, a move that has steered the game away from its original logic.

Espanyol's defender Leandro Cabrera slips on Lecompte's jersey after after the goalkeeper was sent off.
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Espanyol's defender Leandro Cabrera slips on Lecompte's jersey after after the goalkeeper was sent off.PAU BARRENAAFP

Cabrera between the sticks

Many years ago there were no substitutions. About half a century ago, teams were allowed to bring on another player if the goalkeeper was injured, for obvious reasons. Now there are up to five changes but, alas! only in three windows! So after Lecomte was sent off, Leandro Cabrera, a central defender, had to put on the goalkeeper’s jersey to face a free-kick with the ball just one metre outside the area. A golden opportunity which several Madrid player were eager to seize, only to be put off by the sight of Benzema, with the ball tucked under his arm. It was if he was telling them, when you are old enough, you will get your turn. Cabrera was left motionless and Karim rifled the ball through a gap in the wall and inside the post. A goal that reveals so much about the regulations of the game, which only serve to degrade football.


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