“Collina’s heirs” weigh up: Prank: First too wild, then right

“Collina’s heirs” weigh up
Prank: First too wild, then right

By Alex Feuerherdt

In the new Freiburg stadium, the waves beat high at the premiere against Leipzig. Both coaches misbehave towards the referee, the host’s trainer later criticized his inconsistent assessment of penalty area situations. At least that is understandable.

When SC Freiburg and RB Leipzig meet, many perceive it as a game of opposites: Here the down-to-earth club from the tranquil Breisgau, not one of the financially strong clubs, but has always had a solid economy, with considerable continuity in terms of personnel – Christian Streich for example, he has been the head coach there for almost ten years – and an alternative image. There the club by the grace of a large corporation striving for higher things, only launched in 2009 and despised by numerous fans of other clubs as a supposedly soulless “artifact”.

These opposites are all too clichéd, but that’s the way it is in show business professional football, and it hardly detracts from the appeal of this game. Many a meeting between the Leipzigers and the Freiburgers since the Saxons’ promotion to the Bundesliga has been wild and hectic, even charged, and it was like that on this Saturday too. Especially since it was the first competitive game in the brand new Freiburg stadium, which increased the importance. There and on that day, as the only Bundesliga team still unbeaten this season, Freiburg did not want to suffer their first defeat, especially not against the last ailing guests.

It is certainly no coincidence that Daniel Siebert, EM referee and thus one of the top people among the German referees, was entrusted with the management of this game. The 37-year-old Berliner knows how to calm your mind and likes to play games between two technically strong teams. But this time he had a difficult position because the emotions were sometimes excessive, there were many close duels to be judged and every now and then one of them went down without really being forced to do so.

Both trainers do not live up to their role model function

The two coaches didn’t make the referee’s job easier either. In fact, they were the first to be shown the yellow card by Daniel Siebert: Christian Streich saw them after 33 minutes, his Leipzig colleague Jesse Marsch only three minutes later. Both trainers were so furious about the referee’s decisions – a penalty here, a free kick there – that the referee had no choice but to take a warning. After the game, Streich admitted in an interview with Sky broadcaster that he was “too wild” and recognized the yellow card’s authorization.

During the week, Lutz Michael Fröhlich, the sports director of the referees in German professional football, said at a media workshop that with the return of the spectators, the emotions on the field would increase again – and, it was to be feared, the complaints, protests and Bitches against the referees. They are therefore increasingly required to put an appropriate stop to unsporting behavior. Merry was right. The fact that it was precisely the two coaches in Freiburg – functionaries with a special role model function – who were the first to be warned does not throw a good light on them.

Streich: Either a 911 here or there – or none at all

After the game, which ended 1-1, there was a lot of talk about the referee’s tackle evaluation, which the hosts in particular did not like. “There was no right line,” said attacker Lucas Höler. “Sometimes he whistled, sometimes not.” Christian Streich criticized in particular that Daniel Siebert had decided differently in two similar penalty area situations: In the 31st minute, he awarded the Leipzigers a penalty, four minutes after the break, however, he denied the Freiburgers one. “If you whistle the first penalty, you also have to whistle the second,” said the home side’s coach. “Or you don’t whistle the first one and leave out the second one too.”

Streich’s view was understandable. The penalty kick for the guests resulted from a duel between Philipp Lienhart and Christopher Nkunku in the Freiburg penalty area, in which the Leipzig player stumbled over the left leg of the Freiburg defender and fell with some theatricality. Whether this contact is to be assessed as a punishable trampling by Lienhart or whether Nkunku was looking for him to go down is also a matter of judgment. With a rather strict interpretation of the rules, the penalty whistle can certainly be defended, but it does not fit with a more generous one. It was by no means clearly and obviously wrong, so the VAR did not have to intervene.

Why the VAR rightly failed to intervene twice

Even in the 49th minute, there was not just one decision to consider. In the running duel with Lucas Höler, Mohamed Simakan held his opponent slightly on his right shoulder in his own penalty area, but that was less important than the contact between the two opponents’ right calves. After that, Höler fell, and here, too, it was not possible to say with absolute certainty whether Simakan – who was in the worse position – had caused this fall or had helped Höler a little. Judging by the rule interpretation after 31 minutes, there were no fewer arguments here to recognize a penalty. That’s why you can agree with Christian Streich when he judges that the same decision should have been made in both situations – either one penalty or none.

Nevertheless, in the second scene, too, it was right that the video assistant held back. Because the referee had not made a clear wrong decision, his assessment just didn’t quite match that in the first scene. The task of the VAR, however, is not to contribute to the uniformity of the rule interpretation in such borderline cases, but, as is well known, only to intervene in the event of serious errors and overlooked incidents. Logically, it can happen that in two similar situations different decisions are made and nevertheless no intervention from the video center in Cologne is required because both decisions are justifiable in themselves. Even if that may feel unfair in comparison.

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