As the likely destination for the Premiership title heads towards it's climax and a possibly decisive derby meeting at the City of Manchester Stadium in late April,it's unsurprising that almost every contentious incident involved both Manchester teams are coming under scrutiny.
Penalties,along with goals are the lifeblood of football and while lacking the regularity of the latter,penalties compensate by posing numerous immediate questions.Was it a penalty,is there going to be a red card and will he score? to name just three.And it was penalties or in this case the lack of an award that provided the centre pieces for two moments of controversy in this week's game involving both City and United.
Manchester City have failed to beat Stoke City at the Britannia in the Premiership despite a handful of opportunities,a consistently superior side and the occasional helping hand from a referee's red card.Never the less,small sample sizes don't really change the underlying odds of a title chasing side beating a midtable drifter and so the blue side of Manchester were fairly substantial favourites to win on Saturday evening.However,the game ran the usual course of recent top flight encounters where City entertain City,as Stoke departed from their stifling defensive approach just long enough to provide a moment of pure brilliance and put their more expensive visitors on the back foot.This time it came from Crouch,who joined in with Pennant and Begovic's long range game of "keepy up" to smash a Greenhoff like volley past Joe Hart.The goal was rightly celebrated on MOTD2 where any comparisons to Ya Ya Toure's 30+yard deflected equaliser 15 minutes later were quietly shelved.
Stoke City v Manchester City Game Graph.
1-0,Crouch (emulates Greenhoff),59'
There's a widely held belief that the better sides receive a disproportionately larger number of penalties than their less talented opponents and also that they are penalized less harshly.It's not actually the case,as this post here points out.Teams,over a large enough sample of games receive penalties in proportion to the amount of attacking they do and concede in proportion to the amount of defending.However,that doesn't mean that poor decisions aren't made and as luck would have it both Manchester clubs got lucky with penalties that weren't awarded against them this weekend.
Barry's characteristically robust challenge on Glenn Whelan felled the Irish midfielder long after the ball had gone,was clearly inside the box and was a routine foul and yellow card to most pundit's eyes.Had the penalty been given at such an early stage in the game,it would have been a sufficiently major incident to wipe out all of Man City's talent based superiority.If Stoke had gone on to score from the spot they would have become the favoured side to emerge from that game situation with more points than Man City over the long term.
Stoke would have found themselves in a much improved situation,although ironically not as good a situation as they actually found themselves in 45 minutes later following a bout of excellent defence and their centre forward's wonder strike.Barry for his part would have needed to tread warily if he had been correctly carded for the 16th minute challenge.He was actually carded 23 minutes later.
How an Early Penalty would have changed the Stoke City v Manchester City Game.
Manchester United's Monday night graph against Fulham is singularly dull.United were of course big pre game favourites,Rooney' 42 nd minute strike confirmed that they were much more likely to win and their Expected Points tally spent all of the second have ticking gradually up towards 3 points.
Manchester United v Fulham Game Graph.
As in the Man City game the drama came about because of a penalty that wasn't given.Even SAF conceded that Carrick's last minute challenge on Murphy was a spot kick,although he did manage to spin the incident by suggesting that the official was still feeling guilty because he hadn't given United a "stonewall" penalty earlier in the match.SAF at his brilliant best.Fulham manager,Martin Jol was less impressed with the official,even going as far as to suggest that his former player at Spurs should have seen red as well as conceding the penalty.
Of the two non penalties this one had the most potential to wrench the game in a different direction.The closeness of the game situation was similar to the Stoke/ManC encounter,but the lateness of the hour made it a high leverage situation.United's Expected Points would have tumbled all the way down from nearly 3 to just below 2 if Michael Oliver had pointed to the spot and it would have been barely above 1 if they had entered injury time all square following a successfully converted kick.
How a last minute Penalty would have changed Manchester United v Fulham.
If Mancini had been quietly thanking Howard Webb at quarter to six on a Saturday evening in the Potteries,he was most likely loudly lambasting Michael Oliver across Manchester at a quarter to ten on the following Monday night.