Freak goal was ‘wrongly allowed’
Reina has the beach ball covered but cannot stop the real ball
A former FA Premier League referee says he is “amazed” Sunderland’s winner against Liverpool, which deflected off a beach ball, was allowed to stand.
Jeff Winter told BBC Radio 5 live: “Everyone’s going to have a field day but nobody’s getting upset about it.
“But the laws of the game clearly state that if there’s an outside interference the game has to be stopped.
“The referee and his assistant knew something was wrong, and it should have been a dropped ball.”
The incident occurred when Darren Bent took a first-time shot from just inside the penalty area in one of Sunderland’s first attacks during Saturday’s Premier League match at the Stadium of Light.
The ball evaded Glen Johnson’s attempted block and, at almost the same time, deflected off a large red beach ball at the edge of the six-yard box.
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina found his eyes initially drawn to the path of the beach ball and was wrong-footed, in no position to make the save.
Winter said: “Sunderland fans would say it would have probably gone in anyway and that it was a Liverpool fan who threw it [the beach ball] on the pitch.
“But I’m absolutely amazed. It is a basic law in football and the goal should just not have stood.
“I am absolutely amazed that a referee at that level of football, that between him, his assistant and the fourth official they didn’t see what had happened and give the correct decision.
“There would have been absolute ructions at the Stadium of Light because the fans wouldn’t have understood what had happened but I was watching yesterday afternoon and I was thinking ‘hang on this can’t be right’.
“I try to defend referees whenever possible but this, in terms of interpreting the laws of the game, is far more serious than when a ball crosses a line and somebody doesn’t see it.
Benitez refuses to blame ‘bad luck’
“But on this occasion the irony is that everyone is having a laugh and a joke about it.”
After the incident, Reina was furious and rushed to remonstrate with a referee’s assistant – but the goal stood despite a Fifa law which states: “The referee stops, suspends or terminates the match because of outside interference of any kind.”
Rafael Benitez, Liverpool’s manager, refused to focus his anger on the fifth-minute incident calling it a “a very technical question”.
“It was a special situation but we didn’t play well,” he said.
“The goal changed the game but we made some mistakes and gave the ball away. When we had our chances, we didn’t take them. These things can happen. It’s a bad situation for us that the [beach] ball was in the middle and was influential but again I will say we didn’t play well – that’s the main thing for me.”
His counterpart, Steve Bruce, said he initially thought the strike might have taken a deflection off Johnson rather than the beach ball.
Having found out what had actually happened, he said: “If you really know that rule then you are a little bit sad. I didn’t know the rule that if a ball hit an object it should be a dropped ball, I always thought it’s Sod’s Law and you carry on, but there we are.
“We’ve had a bit of luck there way, it’s one of those things but it’s obviously helped our cause.