#RefWatch: Kevin Friend – Chelsea vs West Ham

Author: . Published: at 10:18pm

Written by @SamRoyden

For the first time in a while, the football gods were looking down in West Ham’s favour as teams around the Hammers dropped points leaving West Ham five points above Southampton in 18th. After a convincing win against Southampton last week, a point at Chelsea would have sufficed and the team didn’t let us down. A hard fought 95 minutes, which saw West Ham keep Hazard and Willian at bay and Joe Hart pulling off some great saves, putting West Ham on 34 points with six games to go.

Kevin Friend was the man in charge for the last derby of the season in an up and down Premier League for both sides. Thus far this season, Friend has officiated only 16 Premier League games, which may have been a concern going into a London Derby but Friend and his officiating team performed well and were in control throughout.

During the first half, Friend wasn’t called into action much but it was his assistant referee who was in a great position to see a disallowed Álvaro Morata goal after the Spanish forward was a foot or so beyond Declan Rice – who has been brilliant in the last two games. Friend played advantage very well during the first half and with the introduction of The Advantage Rule of Law 5 into the game, it’s been great for referees to review whether there is an advantage to be played and keep the game flowing.

Both teams dialled up their intensity in the second half with West Ham chasing an equaliser and Chelsea piling on the pressure to see the game out. Kevin Friend was a busier man in the second half with a couple of big decisions. Again, it was his assistant referee who was in the right place to see Álvaro Morata beyond the last West Ham defender, only to see assistant referee’s flag raised in the air ruling out another goal,

Apart from an undisputed caution for Mark Noble for pulling Eden Hazard’s shirt, there was also a shout for a penalty after Kolo Kante challenged Marko Arnautović inside the Chelsea penalty area. During the live incident, my gut instinct said it was a penalty, potentially could have been my West Ham bias thoughts, but after video replay did confirm it but the decision was very, very difficult in my opinion, we’re talking split second decisions and the slightest of movement.

When I reviewed the first video replay I couldn’t tell you whether it was a penalty straight away, I couldn’t make up my mind in that split second. Did Kante’s toes catch the ball ever so slightly? Did Arnautović touch the ball to make it change direction? After the 4th or 5th replay and 45 seconds later, I finally came to the decision that there was contact by Kante on Arnautović right foot and not the ball, Kevin Friend has a less than a second to make his mind up taking into consideration the only angle that he had. The last touch did come from Arnautović with his right foot, it changed the direction of the ball and should have been a penalty – but, I understand why Kevin Friend didn’t award the penalty.

It’s clear from the replays that the change in direction of the ball was the deciding factor in Kevin Friend’s decision. What Friend didn’t and couldn’t see with the naked eye was that Kolo Kante strikes the West Ham man’s right foot and not clean contact with the ball.

I thought Kevin Friend wasn’t in the best position to make the decision, he could have been a little closer to the incident but I do think that Gary Cahill blocked his view when Kante tackled Arnautović. This may have compromised his view and as a referee you have to be 100% confident that it’s a foul to award the penalty.

I do sympathise with Kevin Friend because taking all of the above into consideration, it was an extremely difficult decision and as a referee, you can only make a decision on what you can see – I would suggest that the assistant referee would have had a better view but being side on, it would have been as difficult as where Friend was positioned. The change direction of direction of the ball came within the split second of Kolo Kante making contact with Arnautović, and the illusion was that Kante clearly made contact with the ball. Was this a clear and obvious error? That is subjective and if VAR was enabled during the game I think it may have been under review, as the only angle that would have given you a definitive answer was a front view, which neither Assistant or Referee have the luxury of having without VAR.

Referee Performance Rating: Kevin Friend – 8/10


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