Was referee Roger East right to award an indirect free-kick to Sunderland for Nacho Monreal’s ‘backpass’ on Tuesday night? Petr Cech isn’t so sure… and he’s not the only one.

  • Cech confused over awarded backpass and indirect free-kick
  • East appeared to make mistake with indirect free-kick but not backpass
  • Fans split over decisions

Just after Arsenal’s second half kicked off against Sunderland on Tuesday night, Nacho Monreal accidentally mis-kicked a 40-yard backpass to Cech in goal. However, as the 34-year-old was off his line, he had to scrabble back, tipping the ball to the right of the goal in order to prevent the Gunners from going 1-0 down in rather spectacular fashion.

The referee then awarded an indirect free-kick at an incredibly tight angle to the Black Cats.

“Well it’s a mis-kick because obviously he wanted to pass it a completely different way,” Cech attempted to explain post-match.

“I was not sure whether it goes in or wide [if I didn’t touch it] because you don’t want to take any chances so I touched it and helped it a little bit wide, which I thought was going to be a corner because I didn’t catch the ball and I didn’t win a backpass. I don’t know, a lot of things can happen!

“I thought it was mis-kick and it would’ve been a corner, in the end the referee decided for a backpass which he has the right to do.

“The situation became a bit confusing because it is very hard, you have it on the goal-line so where do you put the players. I know the rule in this way says you need to be 10 yards or on the goal-line and everybody was everywhere so I think it was kind of a strange situation and I have to say we dealt with it well and that is the main important thing.”

By the letter of the law, an indirect free-kick SHOULD have been given. That part was right.

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As Law 12 states:

An indirect free-kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences:

  • touches the ball with the hands after it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate

It seems like an odd rule though considering, as Cech said, he didn’t catch it… was he supposed to just watch the ball float into his own net?

There’s been a lot more to say about the indirect free-kick itself, however, as the general feeling is that East did get this wrong.

It should have been taken on the nearest point that is parallel to the goal line, rather than directly on the side of the six-yard box.

The FIFA rules (pp. 91 – 92) state:

“Indirect free kicks to the attacking team for an offence inside the opponents goal area are taken from the nearest point on the goal (six-yard) area line which runs parallel to the goal line.”

“Until the ball is in play all opponents must remain … at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball, unless they are on their own goal line between the goalposts.”