After an intense Europa League final night in Turin with a piece of widely poor football that was however fueled by a lot of passion right from the start, it is time to reflect Felix Brych's performance briefly. The technical analysis will follow in form of the referee observers' report to be uploaded in due course.
Priority no.1 in every Iberian duel is to maintain as much control as possible. And this is more easily said than done. As indicated, both sides started nervously, Sevilla even quite roughly into the game. Felix Brych tried it with a sensible and stepwise strategy based on discreet and public warnings already after 90 seconds and some minutes later. This set his line for the match. In 12' and 13', two yellow cards were justifiably issued - he had no other chance. They were mandatory and almost orange. Sevilla were slightly furious both on the field of play and on the seats since their team were already 0:2 behind in terms of cautions. The referee used the chance to tactically balance this later on when cautioning Siqueira. No necessary caution, but it underlined that Team Brych followed a clear plan and retrospectively considered, this fully worked. All players calmed down after this most difficult part of the whole match. Therefore the Dr. in law succeeded in really "managing" this match.
The penalty appeals: What should be emphasized is that we saw that Gaitán and Lima received small but maybe decisive contacts in 45+2' and 56' after the third super-slowmotions - replays from viewing angles that the match officials could only dream of in real-time. However, not every contact is a foul and the referee relied on his better positioned (A)ARs in these occasions. For me these decisions were perfectly taken - but I won't go into deeper discussion at this point. It is clear that in at least these two cases there is room for discussion. And everybody has his own interpretation of these situations and that's fine - my interpretation is that, in both situations, you should let play flow if you understand this game, the reasons for the attackers to fall and if you have already experienced such moments yourself on the pitch. Maybe the circumstance that even Jorge Jesús (!) did not produce a negative echo after the match in terms of that should make us think, too.
The mental and physical challenge. More than 120 minutes of high-pace football (although it was not technically sophisticated at all) and a strange arc of suspense exposed remarkable challenges for the referee and his teammates. Brych had to keep a cool mind all match long, there was practically never a long moment to take breath. Probably Brych, Borsch and Lupp will face similar scenarios in Brazil next month. Besides a couple of smaller mistakes, they accomplished this mental mission in a good way. Same goes for the physical aspects. Even though all actors including Felix Brych became a bit slower in the extra-time, there were no problems. Positioning and movement were much improved compared to his previous matches.
So far, so good. But the real problem came after the match time had already been finished. We all know that Benfica's first penalty saved by Sevilla goalkeeper Beto should have been repeated. As the screenshot unfolds, he was standing 2 metres in front of the goalline and for this reason, he saved the ball.
The Laws of the Game are unequivocally clear. Law 14 makes clear that the goalkeeper has to be positioned on the goalline between both goal-posts facing the attacker until the ball is moving forward. There is no room for interpretation. This penalty kick - and probably the second saved penalty - should have been repeated. And then, who knows whether Sevilla really had won the trophy... Two additional assistant referees, who are supposed to monitor the goalline only, obviously did not see more than the referee who had to concentrate on the ball's movement and penalty taker.
By the way - what makes me doubt is that in Zenit St Petersburg - FC Porto and Atlético Madrid - Austria Wien (UCL group stage 2013/14), similar incidents were equally ignored. UEFA should put this on their agenda. It surprises me that they have apparently not done so before.
In the Europa League final's case, I am actually sure that all of them were aware of what had happened.
Maybe there was a lack of concentration for the unexpected, maybe they were mentally already in the dressing room, maybe they had no courage to intervene in this decisive dimension, maybe they just wanted to have this final finished without bigger trouble - nobody protested.. I can partly even feel with them. But, for sure, these saved penalties decided this season's Europa League champions, are the core of criticism one has to put forward and the main impression that will stay in our minds. In the end, it unfortunately tarnished a very nice performance.