Manchester City vs Liverpool: Did Vincent Kompany deserve to be sent off for his foul on Mohamed Salah?

Updated: 19/04/2024

There was always destined to be refereeing controversy when Manchester City hosted Liverpool at the Etihad.

Before a ball had even been kicked, Liverpool fans were raging about the appointment of Anthony Taylor as referee. Taylor, from Wythenshawe in Greater Manchester, seemed like an unnecessarily controversial choice, though he has refereed both Manchester clubs before and the record states that he supports Altrincham.

While refereeing conspiracy theories are the common currency of internet fandom and hence probably best ignored, it didn’t take long for some genuine controversy to emerge from the match. Around the 30 minute mark, Taylor booked Vincent Kompany for what looked like a fairly innocuous tackle on Mohamed Salah at first glance.

With replays, however, it became clear that Kompany had caught Salah on his left boot. Not only that, the challenge had been hard and high with studs showing and, in launching himself into the tackle, Kompany had left the ground with both feet.

Mixed reaction

Though Sky commentators Gary Neville and Martin Tyler seemed to concur that a yellow card was appropriate, several other pundits took to social media to suggest that Kompany should have been sent off. “Kompany should have been red in my opinion?” tweeted Robbie Savage in the aftermath, while Gary Lineker added: “Lucky not to see red there.”

“Kompany seriously lucky to still be on the pitch. Two footed desperation tackle,” tweeted Eniola Aluko. Naturally, the debate among fans was mainly divided down partisan club lines, but there were plenty of neutrals who also seemed to think a caution was lenient.

That said, there were some who pointed out that Virgil van Dijk escaped with a caution for a comparable tackle on Dries Mertens in the Champions League. That, too, was a forceful studs-up challenge, though Van Dijk actually got far more of the man and still escaped with a yellow.

So should Kompany have been sent off?

The Laws of the Game state that, when considering whether to show a red card, a referee must consider whether a foul is “careless”, “reckless” or “using excessive force”, with the first option requiring no further action, the second requiring a booking and the third calling for a sending off.

There is little doubt that Kompany’s challenge was reckless, given he went in hard and made contact with Salah long before he got the ball with his trailing leg. The case could certainly be made for use of excessive force, with the fact that Kompany took a considerable run-up to the tackle and left the ground with both feet especially damning.

What should be said is that, while stills and screengrabs of the tackle make it look truly awful, Kompany only delivered a glancing blow to Salah’s boot. While that may have been more down to luck than judgement – and the contact may still have hurt like hell – the hot-headed run up to the tackle was much worse than the tackle itself.

Likewise, the tackle was not two-footed at the point of contact. On snap viewing, this may have swayed Anthony Taylor towards a judgement of recklessness as opposed to excessive force with malicious intent.

Arsene Wenger once referred to a red card which went against Arsenal as ‘a dark yellow’, and Kompany’s challenge could be said to fall into that category. As always, on another night, it could have been a different call and one which would have seriously disadvantaged Kompany’s side.

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