by Matthew Campbell
I don’t like to slate referees but I have to say that West Ham should be furious with the performance of Lee Mason this afternoon. Now I am not saying that Manchester United didn’t deserve to win, because they undoubtedly did, but they can have at least two decisions to thank for them getting the three points.
There were four big decisions for Mason to make over the 90 minutes and personally I think he got only one of them correct which was the first of the Hammer’s two penalties.
Carlton Cole, attempted to chip the ball over Patrice Evra, but the French defender, who had his arms up above his head, handled the ball and prevented Cole from advancing through on goal.
Although I don’t think Lee Mason himself saw the incident, his assistant on the far side Paddy Keane did see it and instantly and correctly put his flag across his chest for a penalty kick. Mark Noble stepped up and scored past Tomasz Kuszczak to put the home side ahead after only ten minutes.
Mason was then called upon to make another decision on a potential penalty on 25 minutes this time a foul on Cole by Nemanja Vidic was adjudged by Mason to have taken place inside the penalty area. In real time I thought it was a penalty and can see why he gave it, however the replays from Sky Sports showed that the foul actually took place a yard outside the penalty area so Man United can feel a little hard done by there, however their bad luck certainly evened itself out later in the game.
Again Noble stepped up and with a really well taken penalty into the top right hand corner of the goal to put the Hammers two goals to nil up against the league leaders.
Then with eight minutes of the first half to play and Manchester United should have been reduced to ten men. Vidic had a tangle of legs with Cole when the striker looked through on goal. Mason who seemed quite a way away from the incident, maybe got a word in his ear from his assistant, but only gave a yellow card instead of a red which would have been the right punishment.
So going into the half time break with West Ham two goals up and should have been playing against ten men, you couldn’t see even the mighty United getting back into this one.
As the second half progressed, Mason continued to give some very bizarre decisions blowing for free kicks where no foul existed, none more so than against Javier Hernandez when he was scampering down the touchline.
United got one goal back with 25 minutes to play with an exquisite Wayne Rooney free kick after a foul by Noble on Michael Carrick, and then minutes later Rooney got his and United’s second, a goal that was his 100th Premier League goal for the Red Devils.
Then came the worst decision of what was a poor afternoon for the man in the middle when he awarded a third penalty of the game, this time to United for a handball against West Ham captain Matthew Upson. The decision looked harsh as the defender’s arms were by his side and he wasn’t more than a yard away from the ball when it was struck. Mason maybe got a word in his ear again from Paddy Keane, but the decision looked a bad one. Wayne Rooney, on a hat trick stepped up and sent Robert Green the wrong way to ensure he would be taking home the match ball.
United then made the points safe with a Hernandez goal six minutes from time and overall over the 90 minutes they probably did deserve the win but aswell as Rooney, they have Lee Mason to thank for three points that sends them eight points clear at the top of the table, for a few hours at least.
I was very disappointed with this performance from a referee who I honestly do not rate as a Premier League official. Every time I have seen him referee I have been left very disappointed by him and today wasn’t any different.
One thing I can’t criticise him for is his fitness as he is a very slim chap and gets around the pitch very well. He is always very close to play (except today with the Vidic incident) but that was a bad thing a couple of times today when he got in the way of play, once as early as 39 seconds when the ball hit him and deflected out of play.
He gave a number of fouls when there was little if any contact and also flashed cards for fouls that didn’t warrant them.
He had four big decisions to make and got only one of them right, and that one was given by his assistant rather than Mason himself.
Overall a miserable day at the office for the officials, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mason is dropped down into the Football League next weekend
My Rating: 4/10
Chelsea are up next for United in the Champions League quarter finals. I think this will be a tight affair and a tough game to referee as most matches between these two tend to be. The match needs an experienced head in charge I think personally the two legs will go to Viktor Kassai of Hungary and Nicola Rizzoli of Italy, with the later taking charge of the meeting this week.
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