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01st Jun 2019

Hand ball rule explains why Moussa Sissoko offence was a penalty

Conan Doherty

It was a controversial start to the Champions League final

Just 24 seconds into the 2019 Champions League final, Liverpool were awarded a penalty because of Moussa Sissoko’s hand ball.

By every metric, the action was an offence and Liverpool were owed their penalty. The hand ball rule in football has always been a point of consternation and it has intensified even more this year with the introduction of VAR but the same referee who gave United a penalty against PSG for Kimpembe’s hand ball was right to allow Mo Salah an effort from 12 yards.

One which the Egyptian duly dispatched.

Sissoko might not have moved his hand in reaction to the flight of the ball but he had no need to have his hand in that unnatural position which obstructed the cross unfairly.

The distance between his arm and the ball also allowed him an opportunity to move it out of the way or, you know, not have it extended perfectly 90 degrees away from his body – and then keep it there the whole time.

And, actually, what happened when the ball hit his arm was that Sissoko then proceeded to move his hand towards the ball which was dropping in the deflection and he handles it a second time and spins it to ground.

It was unnecessary, it was unnatural and it was a penalty.

The handball rule

Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.

The following must be considered:

  • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence
  • touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) is an offence
  • hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) is an offence

The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. Inside their penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any related sanction but can be guilty of handling offences that incur an indirect free kick.

Before Mané even strikes it, Sissoko is in this position

And he is not moving

As Mané kicks through, Sissoko’s arm is still unnecessarily in the way

Of course it hits his arm and deflected to a safer position

Sissoko gets a second touch of it as he moves his arm towards it and takes the sting out of the ball

A high, curling cross is trapped and dead because of a loose limb that did not need to be loose

In January Head of Uefa Referees Robert Rossetti told the Times that – when VAR was introduced into this season’s Champions League – officials would penalise any unnatural arm movement that makes contact with the ball.

That’s exactly what Sissoko did. Twice.

“The big challenge is the position of the arm. When the arm is totally out of the body above the shoulder it should be penalised. If the defender is making the body bigger in order to block the ball it is not fair,” said Rossetti.

“It is different if the defender is challenging or playing the ball and it rebounds. But if he is looking to block a cross or a shot on goal and the player is trying to spread his body then it is a handball.”

Of course none of this really matters because Liverpool won 2-0, but at least now you know.