Why the offside laws say Town's late disallowed goal against Portsmouth should have stood

Luke Woolfenden and Cameron Burgess speaking with the linesman at the end of the match.

Luke Woolfenden and Cameron Burgess speaking with the linesman at the end of the match. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town were denied by the offside flag in the final minutes of what turned out to be a 0-0 draw with Portsmouth this afternoon. 

The Blues thought they’d found their winner on 88 minutes, when Macauley Bonne rammed the ball home after Cameron Burgess had diverted Bersant Celina’s late free-kick back across goal. 

But they were denied by the assistant referee’s flag, ruling out a goal which Town boss Kieran McKenna believed would have stood had VAR (Video Assistant Referee) been in operation during the game. 

Burgess, who played the ball at the far post, was onside when the free-kick was delivered and Bonne was behind the play when the centre-half diverted the ball back towards him. Neither man infringed. 

Luke Woolfenden was the man flagged offside – and it’s true he was standing in an offside position when Celina’s free-kick was delivered, before he then attacked the cross at the back post along with Burgess. 

Town boss McKenna says he understood why the assistant flagged in this situation, with Woolfenden starting in an offside position and making a play on the ball. 

But, crucially, he didn’t touch it. 

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By the rules of the game, Woolfenden could still have been penalised for offside even if he didn’t touch the ball, if he had either; 

  • Prevented an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision 

  • Challenged an opponent for the ball 

  • Clearly attempted to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent 

  • Made an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball 

But the replays suggest Woolfenden did none of these things, with both he and Burgess clear of any Portsmouth defenders by the time the latter makes contact with the ball. 

And that’s where VAR would have come in to aid Ipswich and clear things up, if it was used in League One. 

Instead, referee Christopher Sarginson ruled the goal out and it couldn’t be reviewed. 

Cameron Burgess at full stretch to direct the ball towards goal, although the linesman flagged for o

Cameron Burgess at full stretch to direct the ball towards goal, although the linesman flagged for offside. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"Look, I think if there's VAR then it's probably given as a goal," McKenna said after the game. "That's my understanding of it. 

"I can understand why the linesman put his flag up because Luke was offside when the cross was taken and he did move towards the ball. 

"I don't know if the referee got a spot on who touched the ball or not, but the players are adamant that Luke didn't touch it and it was Cam who got the ball. 

"Then I think, by the laws of the game, because Luke is behind the ball and didn't touch it and wasn't in the keeper's eyeline, then it should be a goal. 

"That's the margins. If that goes in then we're saying 'really good performance, credit to the players for digging in'. I don't think we've scored many, if any, from set-plays, so that's something we need to keep working on. The delivery was good today and that could easily have been a really important winner from a set-piece. 

"But I can understand the linesman putting his flag up and unfortunately they weren't able to relook at the situation."

 

Macauley Bonne has the ball in the back of the net, although the goal was disallowed.

Macauley Bonne has the ball in the back of the net, although the goal was disallowed. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com