Should Saido Mane have been sent off?

James Harris and Rebecca Johnson tackle the debate around high-footed challenges in light of Mané’s challenge with Ederson.

James Harris
16th October 2017
Saido Mané is one of Liverpool’s most important players. Image: Wikimedia Commons

YES- James Harris

The Sadio Mané incident has incomprehensibly created a storm of debate over a seemingly clear issue. As with so many things, in football or otherwise, context is key in concluding one way or another. Sadio Mané was rightly sent off. This doesn’t mean all high-flying boots should result in red cards.

On first watch, the Mané challenge didn’t seem particularly dangerous or worthy of punishment. Then you see the replays and the leg go up. And you see the studs fly into Ederson’s face. Then you watch it again at normal speed and realise just how fast Mané was running as he made contact with the Manchester City goalkeeper. The evidence stacks up and it becomes increasingly clear that the referee was left with little choice but to brandish the red.

The case for defence is there – Mané quite clearly had no intention to cause harm. The ball was there to be contested and perhaps he could have been susceptible to criticism from the Liverpool faithful had he pulled out. Gary Neville has been particularly vocal and is one who has continued the conversation into subsequent games and similar incidents.

It is a narrative that has very quickly become tiresome. A week after Mané’s dismissal, some were complaining that David Luiz should have received the same punishment for an attempted bicycle kick. Perhaps you can see the problem with this argument; a studs-up, flying boot at full speed is entirely different to the flailing foot of a bicycle kick.

"The evidence stacks up and it becomes increasingly clear that the referee was left with little choice but to brandish the red"

And that’s really the key to the whole debate. Each case is different. It is lazy to suggest that if Mané had to go, so do all high tackles, and ridiculous to claim that if this were to happen it would take away from our game. The safety of the players must always be paramount and Ederson’s scars give an indication to the danger he was put in. If Mané had gone in with similar force and style to an opponent’s shin there would be no attempt to defend his recklessness. Somehow, his foot being significantly higher has created a cause for discussion. Surely that’s not right.

We are so often guilty of condemning Premier League referees each week, but Jon Moss should be commended for his correct dismissal of Liverpool’s Senegalese forward. Michael Oliver too deserves praise for coolly judging the Luiz situation when he easily could have overreacted amid the Mané furore. On the other hand, Matt Ritchie was lucky to escape punishment for the flash of his studs towards Alfie Mawson’s head in Newcastle’s win over Swansea last month.

The refereeing success on these three occasions were mixed, but the point is each had to be assessed on a separate basis. If a blanket policy was used to punish tackles like Mané’s, that is what would truly diminish the sport.

NO- Rebecca Johnson

The latest controversy to grace football is the issue of high tackles. This recently came to national attention after Liverpool player Sadio Mané’s challenge caused facial injuries to Manchester City’s goalkeeper, Ederson, resulting in referee Jon Moss showing Mané a red card.

Ederson’s injuries as a result of the challenge could have been worse, but Mané should not have been sent off for the challenge. Breaking the challenge down, Mané saw the ball in the air and decided he could get to it.

Bearing in mind there was nobody around this ball and he was outside the penalty box, the risk of committing dangerous play was not present as he went for the ball. Every footballers’ instinct is to get the ball and work to score a goal, which is what Mané did.

Watching the replays, he is completely focused on getting the ball, his eyes remain fixed to the ball, so he cannot see that Ederson has run out to challenge it. By the time he realises Ederson is there (if he did indeed realise), it’s too late to pull out of the challenge. It was common ground, and there was no malicious intent, so the tackle should not have been deemed dangerous and worthy of a sending off.

Mané was merely following his instincts in trying to get the ball and shoot- it was Ederson’s bravery in running to intercept that resulted in the injuries sustained.

"It was common ground, and there was no malicious intent, so the tackle should not have been deemed dangerous and worthy of a sending off"

Would Mané have been sent off if his tackle hadn’t hit Ederson in the face, or at least hadn’t caused injuries to Ederson’s face?

This issue reappeared in the Swansea and Newcastle United match, when Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie went with a high foot to challenge for the ball but hit Swansea’s Alfie Mawson in the face with his foot. The question is, should the challenge made by Ritchie have followed the precedent set by the Mané challenge?

Like Mané, Ritchie had his eye on the ball that resulted in him unwittingly hitting another player in the face with his foot in the air. The only differences are that Ritchie escaped with a yellow card and Mawson escaped with no injuries. Had Mawson sustained injuries similar to Ederson, would Ritchie have been sent off too?

Mané should not have been sent off. His actions were neither dangerous nor reckless - one would expect a forward to do what he did in that area of the pitch and he was unaware of the keeper charging out of the box.

Had the incident occurred in a packed penalty area it would have been different as the forward would have been aware of the other players around him and the potential to cause injury.

It seems the referee reacted to the potential severity of Ederson’s injuries, not the circumstances of the challenge. A player should be entitled to have his foot high to bring a ball down if he reasonably believes he can get to it without injuring someone else.

Football is a contact sport and high challenges are a part of the sport. Referees should take the circumstances of the challenge into account and the FA need to clarify their stance on this issue to ensure consistency from referees.

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