The streets in Milan will be painted red on Saturday as AC Milan defeated Inter Milan 2-1 in the Derby della Madonnina at San Siro, and true to its history, both sides fought till the final seconds. Referee Marco Guida had his hands full in this rivalry but there were two key match incidents in the derby that deserve some deeper analysis: The red card to Theo Hernandez in the final seconds of stoppage time, and Olivier Giroud’s challenge that resulted in the overturn of possession and his first goal for AC Milan.
Hernandez red card should have been prevented
The final whistle of the Derby della Madonnina was only seconds away when a series of passionate challenges to keep the game alive by Inter Milan’s Denzel Dumfries resulted in a red card to Hernandez for serious foul play. An argument can be had that a careless foul should have been called only seconds earlier on Dumfries when he regained possession of the ball by extending his left arm to pull back AC Milan’s Sandro Tonali. Referee Guida chose not to call it and to allow the battle to occur most likely since it was an upper-body challenge, the energy was at its greatest in that game and it would have taken the air out of those final seconds. However, it was a risk taken that did not need to be taken.
Without a surprise, after the no-call for Tonali, Hernandez commits a lunging challenge against Dumfries with excessive force from behind with complete disregard to whether he would injure Dumfries in the challenge in the sole effort to prevent the counterattack. Luckily, Dumfries was not significantly injured and Hernandez was correctly and swiftly issued a red card for serious foul play that prevented the mass confrontation by the players that would inevitably had occur if anything less than a red card was issued to Hernandez.
Even in the final seconds of the game, the referee must not allow the energy to take over and lose sight of the bigger picture — player safety. The series of challenges and no calls quickly compounded leading to Hernandez red card that was easy to see was about to occur if a foul was not called sooner. This is a risk not worth taking for the players or the game — yes, even in the last couple of seconds in the Derby della Madonnina.
Giroud’s first goal was reviewed by VAR and is a clean goal
Video Assistant Referee Paolo Silvio Mazzolleni did well not to recommend a review of Giroud’s goal as a result of his challenge on Inter’s Alexis Sanchez that led to the overturn of possession in the midfield and the attacking phase of play for AC Milan. To address the question out of the gate, Mazzolleni would have reviewed Giroud’s challenge on Sanchez to determine whether Giroud’s goal should stand.
As part of the VAR process, the VAR is able to review AC Milan’s attacking build-up to the scoring of the goal to determine whether a clear and obvious error as to a handball, foul, offside, etc. occurred. We call this checking the attacking phase of play (APP) and it begins with how the attacking team won the ball leading to its attack.
The threshold is whether the no-call on Giroud’s challenge against Sanchez is a clear and obvious error. The answer is it is not a clear and obvious error as it is an expected fair shoulder challenge in the context of this play.
In analyzing the play, the immediate thing to determine is whether Giroud was challenging for the ball when he made the shoulder-to-shoulder contact with Sanchez. After reviewing the video, it is actually Giroud who makes contact with the ball before he makes contact with Sanchez on the shoulder. This is what a VAR would look to immediately to determine whether a recommendation to overturn the goal should be made. This is a good no-call by referee Guida to get it right on the field in the split seconds he had to determine whether the challenge was fair and reinforced by VAR Mazzolleni’s check of the play that only added to the drama that is always to be had in the Derby della Madonnina.