Red Card or Not: Tottenham v. Dnipro

I’m a little late to the party on this, but several people have asked me what I thought of the red card in the Tottenham v. Dnipro wonder match in Europa League on Thursday.

The basics: Roman Zozulya (who had scored earlier to put Dnipro up 2-0 on aggregate) finally had enough of Big Jan Vertonghen literally walking all over him and being a general bully, and head butted him. Jan threw himself to the ground in his best Chico Flores imitation, Zozulya was red carded and went so totally berserk that Emmanuel Adebayor and two other Tottenham players had to hold on to him until he regained his senses. Adebayor then scored twice (Christian Eriksen scored right before the red card) to put Tottenham through.

Here’s the video:

Usual disclaimers: I’m a Tottenham supporter, blah, blah, blah. That said…


This was a red card. All. Day. Long.

People calling it “dubious” or saying Vertonghen dived are out of their minds. You cannot head butt someone, no matter how much of a jerk you think they are.

You just can’t.

Even if you think the other player went down too easily (though what is “too easy” when someone’s just banged your head?) or ‘made a meal of it’, it’s a red card.

Full stop.

“But Jenna,” someone said, “Yes, it’s a red card, but Vertonghen should have been yellow carded for simulation!”

Negative. All of FIFA’s documentation (neatly summed up in this gazillion page PowerPoint presentation) says that simulation is for conning the referee by “feigning injury or pretending a foul occurred.” I.E., no foul actually occurred but you’re acting like it did.

That’s the key point: No foul was committed.

In this case, a foul was most definitely and obviously committed. So, Jan wasn’t faking anything, even if he was overdoing it. Those same FIFA docs say a “fall” is not punishable. So falling dramatically to call attention to a foul that actually happened might be bad sportsmanship, but it’s not simulation.

One other factor to consider: A few weeks ago, Fernando Torres scratched Big Jan’s face, and Jan stayed stoically on his feet. You know what happened to Torres?

Not a damn thing. No card in the game and no retroactive punishment, partly because Jan didn’t react to it. No doubt his coaches told him the next time that happened, he needed to hit the deck.

The Grand High Mucky Mucks of football can’t have it both ways: You need to be a good sportsman and stay on your feet, but if you stay on your feet, people can hit you in the head with impunity.

You may not like it, but referee Antony Gautier of France (who, I must say, did not cover himself in glory on the night) got this one right.

Red Card or Not? Red Card


Tottenham could well have been down to ten men at this point already, because of this elbow from Roberto Soldado:

This was easily as bad as Zozulya’s, just better hidden. Bad call on Gautier’s part. (And on Soldado’s part for that matter; I can live with him being completely and utterly useless, but he shouldn’t go out of his way to make himself a liability.)

 Red Card or Not? Red Card


  • I actually would have cautioned Vertonghen for this. I saw this happen in real-time and saw him just walk into his opponent twice and hit the deck on the third. He went out looking for something and made such unnecessary contact while pushing his opponent.


    • Cautioning him for being a big fat bully (which he was totally being) and cautioning him for going down after a head butt are two different things. 😉


      • Agreed. Would have cautioned for the bullying although tempted to go red. Disgraceful behaviour.
        I won’t deny there was some contact but not initiated by the defender.


    • And to your point, if Gautier had had any control over the match, he would have stopped Jan’s bullying and the head butt wouldn’t have happened. I was not overly impressed with him.


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