February 14, 2017

FREE KICKS: Apologies not enough for Hull City

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

At the end of the season, this past weekend’s game against Arsenal could be one that Hull City fans lament the most.

It takes a pretty colossal mess up to get a referee to actually apologize to you at halftime, but that was the case on Saturday.

Yes, Mark Clattenburg actually said sorry to the Tigers after missing a blatant handball on the game’s only goal at the time. It was so blatant that Alexis Sanchez’s outstretched hand was actually the last thing that the ball touched before crossing the goal line.

Though the Gunners would score another – after being awarded a penalty for a handball in the box, ironically – it was the first goal that was all they would need.

It’s situations like this where video replay would benefit the game greatly. It was a clear-cut case of handball and would’ve taken 30 seconds for a ref upstairs to review.

While many purists are against bringing replay and coaches challenges into the game, we might’ve just witnessed a blown call that could cost the Tigers millions of dollars if they end up relegated by a few points.

Oh, and the missed handball wasn’t the only blown call by Clattenburg, either. The ref gave Gunners defender Kieran Gibbs a yellow card for knocking over Lazar Markovic, who was clear in on goal – a scoring opportunity if I’ve ever seen – and was shown just a yellow card.

At that point, if Clattenburg had gotten things right, Hull City would’ve been square with Arsenal at 0-0 and up a man after Gibbs was sent off.

Instead, it remains in the relegation zone, just a point off the bottom of the table.


The early favourite for best winter transfer has to be Manolo Gabbiadini.

The Southampton striker scored two more goals this week against Sunderland, giving him three in two games. Just don’t be so quick to transfer him into your fantasy team: Southampton has a blank gameweek next, so he won’t even see action.

But when the Saints do get back to playing, expect opponents to keep an eye out for the red-hot Italian.


Of course Liverpool turns things around and beats Spurs after weeks of ragging on Jurgen Klopp.

This is what his team does: Beat the best sides and struggle against the teams below.

Spurs made it easy on them too, keeping a high line and allowing Sadio Mane to blow by an overmatched defender on the first goal, then turning the ball over deep right to him and then failing to secure one of the two rebounds.

Defensive injuries are really hurting Spurs right now and Mauricio Pochettino needs to find some stability at the back. Perhaps going to a back three like Spurs did a few weeks ago would help, but without Danny Rose at left back, that could be a flawed plan.

The Reds are now a point behind Tottenham with Manchester United a point behind them, causing a huge pileup around the Champions League spots in the table. This should get very interesting down the stretch and even more confusing when teams start picking up games in hand thanks to various cup competitions.


Sunderland went from pounding in four goals in a half to losing 4-0 in the span of a week. Such is life as a relegation-battler, we guess … Big Sam is getting deeper into the relegation hole with Crystal Palace after losing to Stoke City this weekend. The Eagles are now tied last with Sunderland, but a win will vault either side to safety at the moment … Who’s the best of the Wests? Neither team. West Ham and West Bromwich Albion draw 2-2 … Manchester United looked great against Watford, which isn’t saying much, but it’s these types of games that need to be won for the top teams to contend for Champions League places … Congrats to the Red Devils on becoming the first Premier League team to reach 2,000 points … It should also be noted that since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United is just sixth in the Premier League in total points, with Manchester City leading the charge … Surprise! Middlesbrough failed to score again this week. They’ve scored the fewest in the league with 19 goals, but it’s a good thing that they’re tied for fourth-best defence with 27 goals conceded. That’s better than both Arsenal and City … Don’t look now, but Diego Costa is riding a bit of a cold streak. The Chelsea striker has now gone 195 minutes without getting a shot on target … Chelsea are so far ahead right now that they can afford to have a draw on the road and not even worry about it too much.


Pep Guardiola might’ve been saved some headaches for a little while with Gabriel Jesus limping off against Bournemouth.

The teenage sensation got his third start in a row with Sergio Aguero sitting on the bench.

This changed in the 15th minute when the Brazilian seemingly injured his foot while trying to reach a pass in the box that was too high. He was subbed off for Kun shortly and the rest was history.

City went on to win the game and jump into second in the table while Aguero contributed on what was ruled an own goal for Cherries defender Tyrone Mings.

A Tuesday morning scan showed that he suffered a broken metatarsal and will be out two to three months. At least in the short-term, City won’t be too pressed with fixtures. It has a FA Cup match against Huddersfield Town next weekend and then a Champions League dateafterwards, but then another week off. In fact, between now and the Sky Blues’ March 5 fixture with Sunderland, they only play those two games.

For now, the only questions about Gabriel that Guardiola will have to answer will be about his fitness, but when Jesus is ready to rise, the dilemma the manager has created at striker will be in the headlines once again.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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