What’s The Matter With…Juventus’ set-piece defending?
Jostling for position and battling for space in the penalty area has long been part and parcel of set-piece play, for both attacking and defending sides.
But whilst the occasional grab can sometimes go unnoticed by referees, it is quite baffling to decipher how Celtic weren’t awarded at least one spot-kick in their Champions League tie with Juventus.
As aforementioned, a physical approach to both attacking and defending from set-plays is commonplace throughout each of Europe’s top leagues.
The blatancy with which Stephan Lichtsteiner persistently fouled Gary Hooper from corners though, made it difficult to understand how he escaped with only a yellow card.
Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco refused to award a penalty, instead booking both players late in the first half, after the latest in a series of battles for room in the six-yard box.
And Hoops chief Neil Lennon was left highly frustrated by the leniency of the official, as he eventually saw his side fall to a crushing 3-0 defeat.
“They were being manhandled. They were being fouled. It’s not rugby we’re playing,” he told BBC Sport.
“Are the rules different in Spain or in Italy? On that showing, they must be.”
Of course, in a league such as the Premier League or SPL, we are used to seeing strong, physical defending, and regular contact between players in the penalty area.
But a precedent must surely be set for what constitutes a foul, and is punishable by means of a penalty kick.
A foul is a foul, regardless of where it takes place on the pitch.
Therefore, the same action that would result in a free-kick outside the box, should be punished by the award of a penalty if committed inside the 18-yard area.
Unfortunately, that consistency never seems to translate into officiating, whether it be in domestic league fixtures, or, evidently, in crucial European clashes.
Celtic will be rueing that lack of consistency more than most, as they now look to have a thankless task opposing Juventus, who have been cut to 8/1 for Champions League glory.
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