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A “brave” refereeing decision helped England beat Spain at Women’s Euro 2017, with the official changing her mind about a penalty after Lucy Bronze apparently recited the rules to her.
With England leading 1-0 in their Group D match, Spain were initially awarded a spot-kick when the ball struck striker Ellen White’s arm in the area.
But the decision was quickly reversed.
England had protested that the handball was not intentional, as it deflected up off White’s thigh, after she slipped.
The Lionesses went on to win 2-0 to move three points clear at the top of the group and will qualify for the quarter-finals if they avoid defeat against Portugal on Thursday.
So, what happened, what do the rules say and do you think it should have been a penalty? You can watch the incident, review the rules and vote below.
Watch the decision
The Bronze effect
England defender Bronze’s intervention proved key to changing referee Carina Vitulano’s mind.
“Before the tournament, Uefa send referees in to have meetings with you and they said if it hits you or is a deflection it’s not really a handball – you can’t really help it,” said Bronze.
“I saw it right in front of me and I was like ‘that is not a penalty’ – it’s hit her leg and then gone up and hit her arm. It’s a deflection and [the referee] said ‘you’re right, it’s my mistake’.
“Fair play to her for doing that. I don’t think a lot of referees would be brave enough to do that in such a big game and such a big decision.
“I think the Spanish girls were a bit disappointed and annoyed but, if they watch it back, they will see it is a completely accidental handball.”
Bronze added: “There are a lot of grey areas. I really paid attention [in those meetings]. I had my book out and everything, making sure if I was playing I knew exactly what was a yellow card and red card.
“There are some different kind of refereeing laws this tournament so, as a defender, you really need to be switched on.”
What do the laws say?
According to the Fifa’s 2016-17 laws of the game, handling the ball is the “deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm”.
It says 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 infringement;
- Touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard etc) is an infringement;
- Hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard etc) is an infringement.
Vote – penalty or no penalty?
So, was Italian referee Carina Vitulano correct in not awarding Spain a penalty?
You can have your say and vote below.
If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.
What they said about the decision
After the game, England boss Mark Sampson told BBC Sport: “Whatever the rules are, the referee decides how the rules are interpreted so we’ll respect that and play within them.
“I haven’t seen it back yet, but obviously to correct a mistake you have to respect the bravery to do that, so congratulations, it was the right decision in the end.”
Former England goalkeeper and pundit Rachel Brown-Finnis told BBC Radio 5 live: “It is mystifying.
“I would love to hear the explanation of how they came to firstly give the penalty and then change their minds.
“I think that is beyond most our comprehension of the rules.”
‘A famous night for England’
Sampson – who had named an unchanged side for the first time in his four years as England boss – rated the victory alongside some of the nation’s finest footballing moments.
“I’m in awe of this group in terms of their resilience, their work ethic and their sheer desire to do their family, friends and country proud,” he said.
“This will be a night [you mention] when you talk about English football and you think back to all those famous nights, in Euro 96, World Cup 2015 and 1966.
“It was a really memorable England performance. It’s a big three points on the board.
“As much as Spain gave us problems in their build-up phase and the progression up the pitch, Karen Bardsley did not have many saves to make.
“We saw a different side to the England team tonight – the personality of the players and the team and sheer desire to move forward.”
The result also kept alive Scotland’s hopes of reaching the last eight of the competition, despite their 2-1 loss to Portugal earlier on Sunday.
To avoid elimination on Thursday, Anna Signeul’s side must beat Spain while hoping that England defeat Portugal, and must finish with a better goal difference than both Spain and Portugal when only the matches between the three sides are taken into account.
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