The start of the new season of the Russian Premier League was remembered not only by interesting football and a whole series of intrigues, but also by a series of referee scandals. None of the first five rounds of the championship ended without a heated discussion of the blunders of the referees, and the situation with the gradual introduction of the VAR system added fuel to the fire. Due to the lack of the ability to use video replay in all matches of the league, this only complicated the situation and became a cause of discontent of both players and coaches.
In terms of judicial scandals, the sixth round of the RPL was no exception. This time, the focus was on the meeting held in St. Petersburg between Zenit and Akhmat. During the confrontation, the chief arbiter Alexei Matyunin and his assistants Dmitry Safyan and Nikolai Bogach made a number of controversial decisions that deserve careful consideration by higher authorities.
Moreover, fans and experts do not have a common opinion as to who, in whose favor, the majority of decisions were allegedly taken. According to some, Matyunin whistled in favor of Zenit. Others, on the contrary, are sure that the referee helped Akhmat in every way and turned a blind eye to a number of violations by Grozny residents.
Of course, the most discussed moment of the meeting was the removal of Rizvan Utsiev. In the seventh minute, “Zenith” organized a dangerous counterattack, and Alexander Erokhin had a great chance to go face to face with the goalkeeper of the opponent Vitaly Gudiev. However, a few meters from the penalty area, the home football player collapsed on the lawn, probably after a clash with the captain of Akhmat. Matyunin defined the actions of Grozny as “a foul of last hope” and presented him with a direct red card.
The episode turned out to be more than ambiguous. Even after repeatedly viewing the repetition of the moment, it is difficult to determine whether Utsiev was in contact with his counterpart. It is only visible that Erokhin stumbled on his own leg, after which he fell. But even if you imagine that there really was a contact, Matyunin’s decision still seems ambiguous. On the one hand, Alexander could really go for a rendezvous with the goalkeeper, in light of which the verdict can be considered justified. But on the other hand, the midfielder was catching up with might and main rivals, and its fall looked quite picturesque.
Although this decision of the judge led to the fact that Zenit spent most of the match in the majority, many fans of St. Petersburg later blamed Matyunin for this episode. In their opinion, the ambiguous red card led to the fact that Akhmat barricaded itself in its half of the field, and breaking such a defense is much more difficult. As a result, the blue-white-blue could not open an account, but also not without the help of the referees.
Within 90 minutes of the meeting, the Matyunin brigade made several decisions, which to one degree or another deprived Zenit of the opportunity to print Gudiev’s gates. At the same time, one should not take into account the episode with an unscored goal by Serdar Azmun after Utsiev's foul. Akhmat players heard the whistle, stopped and the Iranian’s actions were in vain.
But even apart from this moment, there were enough controversial whistles in the match. One of these episodes occurred in the 51st minute, when one of the side assistants mistakenly recorded an offside position and canceled the goal scoring by Emiliano Rigoni. Yaroslav Rakitsky made a long throw from his half of the field, and the Argentinean beat Gudiev great. However, Matyunin indicated that the midfielder was in an “offside” position and ordered a free-kick.
Nine minutes later, the assistant referees again made an inaccuracy in determining the offside, preventing Yuri Zhirkov from executing a cross into the penalty area. Undoubtedly, it cannot be said that Azmun would have realized the moment, but this also cannot be discounted.
At the 61st minute, Matyunin deprived the hosts of a much more reliable chance to step forward. He did not notice a touch of the ball with his hand in the penalty area of Akhmat from Anton Shvets, which could well cost him a yellow card, and his team a penalty. The judge and one of his assistants did not see a violation of the rules and did not stop the game, despite the appeals of Rakitsky.
This episode was one of the most difficult to interpret in the match, especially in the absence of a VAR system. Shvets clearly tried to keep his hands behind his back, but at the time of the feint Rakitsky slightly relaxed his vigilance and touched one of them with the ball.
Among other things, according to experts, Matyunin did not show a number of yellow cards to both the guests and the hosts of the match. Thus, the Zenit - Akhmat meeting became one of the most controversial in terms of refereeing and was doomed to become the most discussed on the round (at least until the Spartak - CSKA match). But the resonance would be much less if not for the events that occurred after the final whistle.
With a difference of several dozens of minutes, Zenit coach Sergey Semak and then the club’s star striker Artyom Dziuba demonstrated their incontinence. Both extremely disrespectful in relation to the work of the judiciary, and the words of the mentor did get into the broadcast, becoming the property of the general public.
At the end of the match, several Zenit football players decided to express their dissatisfaction with Matyunin, and they did this in a rather emotional form. In general, Semak's intentions were good. The head coach tried to withdraw his charges from the judge and prevent another conflict from developing, but in the process he himself insulted the officials of the meeting.
“You don’t need to talk to these ***,” said Semak.
Already in the mixed zone, Dziuba gave free rein to emotions. Forward “Zenith” criticized the work of Matyunin, who, in his opinion, lost the thread of the game after the removal of Utsiev.
“I believe that today the main star is the judge. Just a disgrace. You removed the player on the case - what are you afraid of, what are you afraid of, ”said Dzyuba.
The striker expressed the opinion that Matyunin was obliged to punish the players of “Akhmat” for a drag on time, and also mentioned the episode with Rigoni’s unscored goal. At the same time, Dziuba admitted that he does not understand the principle by which the meetings will be determined at which the VAR system will work and he spoke harshly to the head of the RFU Judging and Inspection Department Alexander Egorov.
The emotions of the coach and the leader of “Zenith”, in principle, can be understood, but it must be noted that in this situation both behaved incorrectly. They allowed themselves harsh remarks about the arbitrator and must be punished with a proportionate punishment. Even despite the fact that Semak later apologized to the judges for his behavior. Thus, already in the coming days, the RFU Control and Disciplinary Committee is obliged to make an appropriate decision so that in the future the RPL players and coaches behave more respectfully.
It will be especially interesting to look at the FTC's verdict in the light of recent decisions. So, for insulting an arbitrator through a loudspeaker, Akhmat was fined 150 thousand rubles, and Roman Sharonov for representing himself as the head coach of Rubin - 200 thousand rubles. In addition, Yegorov himself very calmly accepted Dziuba’s statement and Semak’s harshness, which raises questions about how serious sanctions await them.
As for Matyunin, such refereeing should not go unnoticed. The arbitrator made a number of gross errors and made several controversial decisions, which should be punished by sanctions. In the light of the pressure that has recently been put on Egorov, he must fully understand the situation and evaluate it as openly as possible. If the judge really deserves excommunication from the RPL, then he must keep company with Vladimir Moskalyov, who was suspended following the results of the 1st round match between Spartak and Sochi.
Matyunin’s work also once again raised discussions about possible rearrangements in the leadership of the judiciary committee. Over the past weeks, there have been rumors in the media about Yegorov’s possible resignation, and in the light of a series of scandals, this development of events does not seem unbelievable. So far, the head of the judiciary should try to normalize the situation and conduct explanatory work with the referees entrusted to him.