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Marco Asensio’s disallowed Clásico goal: which parts of the body count in offside calls?

Real Madrid thought Asensio had put them back in front against LaLiga leaders Barcelona at Camp Nou before VAR intervened.

Real Madrid thought Asensio had put them back in front against LaLiga leaders Barcelona at Camp Nou before VAR intervened.

The Spanish word ‘robo’ (‘robbery’/’theft’) was trending in Spain in the aftermath of Sunday’s Clásico in Barcelona. No doubt that the majority of those posting it were Real Madrid supporters aggrieved by the fact that Marco Asensio had found the net to seemingly put them 2-1 ahead with under 10 minutes left to play, only for VAR to intervene and referee Ricardo De Burgos to disallow the goal for offside.

That ‘goal’ could have put Carlo Ancelotti’s side right back in the title race. And if having that glimmer of hope snatched away from them wasn’t enough, Franck Kessié fired home an injury-time winner for Barça, who are now 12 points clear at the top of LaLiga with 12 matches left to play.

See also:

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti questions Asensio offside call

There were two quotes in particular that stood out in Ancelotti’s post-match press conference at Camp Nou. First, the Italian kicked off by saying that his team “deserved to win” before later questioning the offside call that led to Asensio’s strike being ruled out.

“Do you think it was offside?”, he asked the journalist who brought it up. “Yes, yes... you have to accept it. But I still have my doubts. No doubt it’s nothing. We have the right to have that doubt”.

2-1. Los jugadores de Barcelona celebran el segundo tanto de Franck KEssié que anota en el descuento.
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Barcelona celebrate Franck Kessié's late winner against Real Madrid. GORKA LEIZADIARIO AS

At first glance, there appeared to be little doubt that the goal should stand as substitute Asensio guided Dani Carvajal’s low pass into the middle of the penalty area beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen. At the moment the Spanish attacker struck the ball, there were two Barcelona defenders comfortably between him and the net.

That, of course, is not how offside works though and, on closer inspection, and with the benefit of a replay, the only thing that did initially become clear was that VAR was going to get involved due to Asensio’s positioning at the moment Carvajal played the pass. Was he level with Jules Koundé, the last Barça defender, or was he marginally in front? And, perhaps more importantly, which parts of the body are taken into consideration?

Which parts of the body can be offside, according to IFAB?

In case you haven’t seen a freeze frame of the moment Carvajal strikes the ball, here it is.

Fuera de juego de Asensio en el Clásico de Liga.
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Fuera de juego de Asensio en el Clásico de Liga.Diario AS

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is the body responsible for determining the laws of the game in soccer and you can find information about laws 1 to 17 on their website.

Law 11, related to offside, is obviously the one we’re interested in here, and Law 11.1 in particular:

It is not an offence to be in an offside position.

A player is in an offside position if:
· any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
· any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent

The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered. For the purposes of determining offside, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.

A player is not in an offside position if level with the:
· second-last opponent or
· last two opponents

That short paragraph in the middle appears to be the key to understanding why Asensio’s goal was ruled out. Was his foot goal-side of Koundé? It’s difficult to tell.

Was his shoulder - which is not considered part of his arm (which starts ‘in line with the bottom of the armpit’) and which you can legally score a goal with - marginally offside? It looks that way. Whether VAR should get involved in such nit-picking, of course, is a debate for another article...

Xavi: “A clear offside”

For what it’s worth, Barcelona boss Xavi Hernández, unlike counterpart Ancelotti, was in no doubt that the correct decision was made. “Asensios goal is a clear offside. I’m surprised by what Carlo said. There is no discussion at all.” Well, there’s a surprise.