FA Cup Semis: Why Jack Grealish’s Handball Wasn’t Given as Chelsea Penalty

FA Cup Semis: Why Jack Grealish’s Handball Wasn’t Given as Chelsea Penalty

Martin Moses
updated at April 22, 2024 at 9:17 PM
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C. Palmer
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  • Chelsea were denied a penalty in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City
  • The ball appeared to strike Jack Grealish's arm from a Cole Palmer free-kick
  • An explanation has now been offered as to why the appeals were waved away

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In the 56th minute of Chelsea's contest against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on April 20, Mauricio Pochettino had the clearest view when Cole Palmer stood behind a free-kick.

The in-form former Manchester City winger went for a goal, but his strike appeared to strike Jack Grealish's arm on its way out. Appeals for a penalty, or even a corner, fell on deaf ears as Michael Oliver stood his ground.

Jack Grealish, Manchester City vs Chelsea, Cole Palmer, FA Cup semi-final, Mauricio Pochettino
Jack Grealish (centre) jumps during Manchester City's clash against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final on April 21. Photo by Alex Pantling.
Source: Getty Images

It was the third time this season that Pochettino had managed to go toe-to-toe with the European champions. The previous results were a dramatic four-all draw at Stamford Bridge last year and a 1-1 stalemate at the Etihad Stadium in February.

The Argentine would certainly feel that his side deserved a place in the final were it not for Nicolas Jackson's profligacy at Wembley. The non-penalty call from Oliver before Bernardo Silva won the game six minutes from time didn't help matters either.

So, why was the penalty not given? Replays show that the ball did strike Grealish's hand, but VAR David Coote agreed with Oliver's on-field decision.

Why Grealish's handball wasn't penalised

The handball rules remain divisive despite IFAB breaking it down further to avoid confusion. The working rule for handball was whether or not the player made his body unnaturally bigger by using his arms.

This law, as ESPN's VAR expert Dale Johnson explains, also covers players who appear to be in the process of making their bodies smaller by bringing their arms closer to them.

This exception is still at the referee's discretion to decide whether it was a genuine attempt by the player to have his arms in a natural position.

Grealish was part of Manchester City's wall, and it was conceived that he was returning his arms to his body, thus being excused.

Martin Odegaard's handball incident vs Liverpool

Coincidentally, Coote was the same official on VAR duty when Martin Odegaard handled the ball against Liverpool on December 23, 2023.

Sports Brief reported that the Arsenal skipper handled the ball NBA-style, but the penalty appeals were waved away.

However, PGMOL chief, Howard Webb, later on, admitted that Jurgen Klopp's side were unlucky not to get a penalty from that incident.

Like Grealish, Odegaard was at that time adjudged to have made an effort to make his body smaller or break the fall, and therefore, Coote didn't classify it as clear and an obvious error.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)