Paris St-Germain 1-1 Newcastle: Why was controversial late penalty given?

Ally McCoist branded it a “disgrace”, while Jermaine Jenas said Newcastle were “robbed” as a controversial late penalty decision denied Eddie Howe’s side a memorable victory at Paris St-Germain.

Aleksander Isak’s first-half goal in Tuesday’s Champions League tie had looked set to stun the hosts, as missed chances and some big saves from Nick Pope gave the visiting fans hope that their side were going to complete a double over the French champions in Group F.

But, in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Ousmane Dembele’s cross appeared to strike Tino Livramento’s body and the ball bounced up on to his arm.

After referee Szymon Marciniak reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor, he awarded a spot-kick, which Kylian Mbappe duly despatched to secure a 1-1 draw.

“What is Livramento meant to do with his arms? Wrap them round his back? I’m fuming,” former Newcastle midfielder Jenas said on TNT Sports.

“The players threw everything at it and it should have been one of those historic wins. Newcastle have been robbed.”

McCoist, commentating on the game for TNT, added: “That is absolutely never a penalty. If we’re giving a penalty for that, then it is a disgrace.”

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) who advised Marciniak to review the incident has been stood down by Uefa for his next match, though European football’s governing body has not made a public statement about the decision.

Tomasz Kwiatkowski was supposed to be VAR for Real Sociedad v RB Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday evening, but has been replaced by Marco Fritz of Germany.

Tino Livramento blocks a cross

The game was being officiated by one of the world’s best referees, with Marciniak having been in the middle for the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France; he also took charge of June’s Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.

He had earlier waved away PSG appeals for a penalty after Anthony Gordon had appeared to foul Achraf Hakimi inside the box, and he again initially dismissed calls from PSG players for a spot-kick following the Livramento incident.

But, after being urged by the VAR to check the monitor, he felt there was enough there to give the hosts the 98th-minute penalty.

“The referee is the best in the business and was great for the majority of the night,” added McCoist.

“It comes off his chest and hits his left elbow… that’s absolutely never a penalty. The whole night will be remembered for that decision.”

Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer posted on X: “A superb battling away performance from every single player. Shouldn’t be spoilt by a disgusting decision.”

What does the handball law say?

According to the laws of the game, when deciding a handball decision in a game, referees have three key considerations:

  • Whether it is a “deliberate action” by the player – ie have they moved their arm towards the ball?;
  • The proximity of the player from the ball and the speed it hits them on the arm/hand;
  • If the the hand or arm is in “an unnatural position”, – ie away from the body

In the case of the Livramento handball, the referee deemed that even if it was not deliberate and the Newcastle defender was unable to react quickly enough, his arm was in an unnatural position.

Would it have been given in the Premier League?

Where it becomes more complicated for fans, players and managers to understand is that, around the laws of the game, different competitions can include additional mitigation for referees to consider.

In the Premier League, allowances are made by officials for when the ball strikes another part of the body first, prior to it hitting the player’s arm.

On that basis, it is possible Livramento would not have been penalised had it been a Premier League match.

In April, the Uefa football board – an independent advisory group – recommended that “Uefa should clarify that no handball offence should be called on a player if the ball is previously deflected from his own body”.

Keith Hackett, former general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the English referees’ body, told the Daily Telegraph that Uefa did not implement this recommendation for its own competitions.

“Last April, in their guidelines for the upcoming season, the Uefa board recommended that there should be clarity that no handball offence should be called on a player if the ball is previously deflected from their own body,” Hackett said. “But this recommendation was not implemented – and Newcastle paid the price at the Parc des Princes.”

These differing laws may have contributed to a discrepancy in the percentage of penalties given for handball so far this season.

According to Opta, 42.3% of spot-kicks (11 from 26) awarded in the Champions League have been for handball, a greater percentage than in any of Europe’s big five leagues in France, England, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The next highest is Italy’s Serie A with 34.9% (15 of 43), while just 16.7% of spot-kicks (seven from 42) have been given for handball in the Premier League.

However, the Europa League and Europa Conference League, which applies the same handball laws as the Champions League, also have differing figures, at 25.9% (seven of 27) and 21.7% (five of 23) respectively.

‘I can’t say my inner thoughts’

Kylian Mbappe scores against Newcastle

Regardless of how the rules were interpreted, Newcastle boss Eddie Howe was not happy with the decision.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty,” he said.

“What you don’t take into account with those replays is how quick the ball goes. It hits his chest first. If it hits his hands first, well it’s still not a penalty because he’s so close. But you can make more of a case.

“It’s not a penalty when it hits his chest first and then hits his hand, which is low. I’m not allowed to sum it up. I can’t say my inner thoughts obviously.

“I thought the referee was having a good game up until this moment. He had been strong.”

Magpies defender Kieran Trippier added: “I just try to enjoy football, but I am tired of discussing these matters, whether good or bad.

“Nothing can change it. The referee had the chance to go to the monitor, which he did, so I don’t understand it. From my point of view, it has come off his chest and onto his arm.

“I don’t understand what his decision was, even after the game. We tried to ask him. But we just have to move on and take it on the chin.”

Victory for Newcastle would have put their Group F destiny in their own hands.

However, the draw means that to progress to the last 16, they must beat AC Milan in their final group game and hope Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat against PSG.

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