Craig Pawson had four big decisions to make at Wembley yesterday. Unfortunately he got them all wrong.
Three of them went against Manchester City and they have every right to feel aggrieved because the calls had a huge bearing on the outcome of the game.
After Pawson’s torrid time at Crystal Palace last December, when he failed to punish Marcus Rojo’s two-footed lunge on Wilfried Zaha properly, I was surprised he was handed such a big occasion as yesterday’s match and it proved too big for him.
The Football Association could have selected Andre Marriner, who has been putting in some really good performaces of late, or the solid Mike Dean. Mark Clattenburg is another name they could have gone for. Traditionally officials who have refereed finals are then given semi-finals.
Pawson’s first slip-up yesterday came after just 22 minutes when Gabriel went through the back of David Silva with a reckless challenge which should have produced a yellow card. It forced the City midfielder out of the game and was a big blow for his side.
The official erred again on 28 minutes when Sergio Agüero was brought down in the area by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Although it was suggested by some that Agüero might have clipped his own heels, it was a deliberate trip by the Arsenal player. A clear penalty.
Error No 3 came when Raheem Sterling’s effort was disallowed because Leroy Sané’s cross was judged by assistant referee Steve Child to have gone out of play.
I have sympathy with the officials because it was a difficult call and TV replays underlined that. But Child was standing in the right position and it appeared to me the officials relied too much on guesswork. If the mistake teaches us one thing, it is that the advent of Video Assistant Referees cannot come quickly enough.
The final mistake involved another penalty claim, this time Arsenal’s, when Jesús Navas tugged at Alexis Sánchez in the box. It was the easiest one to call and I was surprised Pawson did not give it, although he would have benefited from more help from his assistants.
Contrast Pawson’s performance with that of Martin Atkinson in Saturday’s Chelsea v Tottenham semi-final – probably the best refereeing display of the season. He was outstanding. It was a refereeing masterclass. His greater experience showed and it commanded the respect of all the players. Big games can expose referees but Atkinson showed the importance of following the play and reading the game. Pawson is still a work in progress.
Keith Hackett is a former referee and resident expert for You-Are-The-Ref.com