Ref Watch: Lee Mason – Southampton vs West Ham
Author: SamTWHWRef. Published: 19 August 2017 at 8:59pm
Written by SamRoyden
After receiving the biggest defeat on the opening day of the Premier League in 11 years, West Ham needed to kick start the season at Southampton who haven’t scored in 9 fixtures at St Mary’s. Slaven Bilić gave youngster Declan Rice his first Premier League start in a changed team which saw Michail Antonio break into the starting 11 after returning from a hamstring injury.
The referee appointed for his gameweek 2 fixture was Lee Mason. Mason hasn’t bathed himself in glory over the last couple of seasons with wayward and controversial decision making. This fixture was Mason’s first Premier League fixture of the season after being appointment Cardiff vs Sheffield United in the Championship last week.
During the first half, Lee Mason had a number of high profile decisions that needed to be made which was meant an incident packed first 45 minutes. In the first 20 minutes, I thought that Mason was in control but the game very quickly got away from him. The first big decision Mason had to make was when Dušan Tadić clattered into Javier Hernandez on the half way line making no attempt to play the ball. When looking at the challenge, it’s reckless. Tadić completely misjudged his challenge and in my opinion was rightly cautioned. There were calls for a red card and if the Southampton man caught Hernandez with either foot or leg, I would have expected Mason to show Tadić a red card.
Ultimately, the deciding factor was whether the players safety was at risk or not and it’s something I think about during every decision. As I mentioned above, the challenge was reckless, Tadić used his body and in the Laws of The Game, a challenge of this reckless sort is warranted with a caution. If Tadić caught the Mexican, leading with his foot or leg, this would have been excessive force and this would warrant a red card.
Lee Mason had a very interesting 30 seconds midway through the first half after missing two fouls where both players subsequently should have taken disciplinary action. Marko Arnautović was on the receiving end of an elbow to the newly signed midfielder Mario Lemina after both players went up to challenge for the ball. In my opinion, this was a foul as Lemina caught Arnautović but it was unintentional and was for leverage to jump instead of trying to endanger. Mason’s decision making on this incident bothered me for two reasons: Firstly, was that it was a foul and Lemina should have been cautioned and secondly Arnautović sustained a head injury and the game should have been stopped. Lee Mason failed to do either of these which is poor decision making by the referee.
While Arnautović was on the floor injured, Mark Noble stupidly went into a challenge two footed with Mario Lemina who committed to a sliding challenge. Mark Noble caught the Southampton midfielder high on the shin and Lee Mason completely missed this challenge and eventually blew for Arnautović to receive treatment. In my opinion, Mark Noble should have been sent off as it was a very poor challenge as he used excessive force. Noble was very lucky to be on the field and this was another decision Lee Mason failed to see.
Marko Arnautović always had a bad temperament which we saw in his Stoke days on a couple of occasions and his actions during the game was completely stupid and unnecessary. After the ball had gone by Jack Stephens, Arnautović struck the Southampton defender with his elbow in the neck region. Lee Mason and his assistant referee got this decision spot on and Arnautović should have no complaints. This is a stupid challenge by Arnautović and therefore he will miss the next three games for violent conduct
The misery continued for West Ham as José Fonte conceded a penalty for blatantly pulling back Stephen Davis. This was a stone wall penalty and Mason was on hand to award it. Fonte wasn’t cautioned for his attempt to stop Davis from controlling the ball inside the area but should have been given a caution for this but Mason chose not too. Even though Fonte made no genuine attempt to play the ball, it wasn’t an obvious goalscoring opportunity so it wouldn’t have been a red card offence.
The second half for Lee Mason was a lot quieter than the first but he continued to have game-changing decisions to make. The first decision Mason had to make was whether Jack Stephens intentionally handled the ball or not after Ayew’s header struck the defenders arm. There is no doubt that Andre Ayew’s header hit Stephens on the arm; From my first view it appeared that his arm was in a natural position but I’ve seen these given. I do have to question Lee Mason’s positioning for the corner. Mason was positioned on the edge of the D on the penalty area. Mason should have been nearer to the corner of the 18 yards box so his vision could not be impaired and to allow your assistant referee to look along his line of sight. Upon replays, it was clear that Mason’s view was obstructed and he couldn’t have given a decision as he couldn’t see it. Positioning is taught very early in a refereeing career, especially for set pieces which allow your assistant referee to look across the line and for the referee to look into the crowd of players to give you, as the referee, the best opportunity to give a decision. It’s strange that Mason took this position and he was guilty of taking other strange positioning throughout the game.
I’ve said before that goalkeepers are over protected by officials but I thought Mason got the decision to disallow the Southampton goal correct. As the ball ricocheted in the air, West Ham goalkeeper Joe Hart was poised to jump and collect/challenge for the ball but as Hart was about to jump, Nathan Redmond barged into the England number one and the goal was correctly disallowed.
I thought that Lee Mason had an average performance, with a handful of mistakes and a terrible 30 seconds in the first half but overall his performance was overshadowed by a very soft 91st minute penalty decision for Southampton’s second penalty of the game. Southampton defender Maya Yoshida went down under minimal pressure by West Ham’s Pablo Zabaleta whilst trying to latch on to a Ward-Prowse cross. Lee Mason pointed straight to the spot with West Ham players bewildered with his decision and cautioning Zabaleta in the process. Firstly, it was clear that Mason’s position was poor once again as he took up a position which didn’t give him a side on view of the challenge. Secondly, admittedly there was pressure from Zabaleta but there wasn’t enough to give a foul in my opinion. If this incident occurred anywhere else on the pitch, it would not be classed as a foul. Thirdly, and more frustrating from a fans perspective, Zabaleta gave Lee Mason a decision to make in the final seconds of normal time. He should be experienced enough not to do that which Bilić will be furious about.
West Ham now sit rock bottom of the Premier League after two games. For the last 30 minutes of the game, I thought we looked comfortable and gunning for a draw with two great goals from Javier Hernandez. Since his sending off, Marko Arnautović has apologised on Instagram but his stupidity means he will be absent for three games against Cheltenham, Newcastle and the first home game of the season against Huddersfield. This kind of attitude and lack of self control cannot be tolerated and it put us in a difficult position for the rest of the game. Our defence is looking very suspect already after conceding 7 goals in two games. The amount of space that we gave Southampton in the middle of the park was a concern. There was no urgency in the middle of the park to put pressure on Southampton and time after time they split our defence with balls through midfield and defence just like Manolo Gabbiadini.