Everton finally scored their first goals of the 2023-24 Premier League season at the fourth time of asking, but they weren’t enough to secure a win away at Sheffield United. The Toffees had gone ahead when Abdoulaye Doucoure had pounced on an Amadou Onana header from a corner, but were pegged back by two well-taken goals for the hosts before the break.
In the second half, the Blues looked a lot more cohesive and dangerous and duly got a deserved equalizer when a delightful cross from Nathan Patterson was hammered home from close range by Arnaut Danjuma to make it 2-2, and thus the score stood.
However, what this game might end up getting remembered for something other than the scoreline or the pair of double-saves Jordan Pickford made to keep things level. The referee on the day at Bramall Lane was Premier League veteran Andy Madley, and he was quite awful. At least he was consistent in his utter inconsistency throughout the fixture on how he applied the laws of the game.
Here are four instances from the game where Madley showed his incompetence, and VAR in charge Simon Hooper shouldn’t get a free pass either for missing (or choosing to ignore?) a couple of those gaffes as well.
Just nine minutes in, the Toffees’ Jarrad Branthwaite went across to stop Gustavo Hamer’s run down the Everton left. The young defender slid in and won the ball. Hamer, who had gotten too far from the ball, went down in a heap and Madley immediately flashed the yellow card.
While it might still be iffy whether playing the ball and then taking out your man should be a foul — he can’t quite vanish into thin air after getting the ball can he? — that the referee chose to brandish the booking this early on for an innocuous challenge was an early sign of more to come.
No Penalty, No Red Card Either
Behind by a goal, Everton started the second half like a train on fire, throwing everything at the Blades goal seeking a leveler. Beto, who enjoyed an excellent Premier League debut with his physicality and running, set up Arnaut Danjuma running at goal with a lovely little back-heel.
Through on goal with the ball at his feet, the Dutchman was tugged back by defender Anel Ahmedhodzic. The contact was started outside the box, clearly enough, but continued well into the penalty box, and by the laws of the game was clearly a penalty.
Madley took a second and then decided it was still a freekick on the edge of the box. VAR checked it, as they do just about every decision, and for some reason it appears both Hooper and Madley just forgot about Law 12.
If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.
Comically enough, there was more. The referee chose not to give a penalty, and then only booked the Sheffield defender. It would have been understandable not sending off the player if the spotkick was awarded with the double jeopardy rule, but Ahmedhodzic fouling Danjuma prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity. Why did Hooper not discuss that with Madley?
It didn’t end there either.
Line? What Line?
From the resulting freekick, Ashley Young pointed out that the Blades wall was inching well past the painted line. If you remember, the spray paint idea was established to prevent players from encroaching closer than the required ten yards.
Madley came over, urged the Sheffield players back, and then to Young’s and to be fair, the entire watching world’s utter incredulity, painted a new line a yard closer to the ball! What in the world was that?!
Play Till Someone Scores?
Everton duly got their equalizer and as the game petered out towards a draw, Madley added six minutes at the end. Soon after that James Tarkowski bravely took a shot in the face and had to go off to go through concussion protocols. While the Blues readied Ben Godfrey, at most a minute, Tarky stayed on the pitch.
The six minutes elapsed, and then a seventh, and incredibly even an eighth. The nervy Blues conceded a corner, and were very lucky to not concede a late winner thanks to Jordan Pickford’s amazing double save off Ollie McBurnie, two saves he really shouldn’t have had to make because where Madley found three more minutes during the six minutes added on we’ll never quite know. Refs have been pretty firm about adding time on to cut out unnecessary timewasting, but this was a legitimate head injury.
All in all a shambolic performance from referee Andy Madley in an afternoon to forget for the official, though in all honesty with some of the other decisions we’ve seen made and the shocking admission from Mike Dean recently, not surprising in the least.