There aren’t many more selfish acts in sports than a straight red card for violent conduct. Sending offs are massive game changers in modern football that leave managers, fans and teammates furious with the offender. A red card negatively impacts the morale of the players remaining on the pitch and completely scraps the meticulously planned tactics of the coaching staff. A pair of these idiotic decisions from players completely changed two matches in the Premier League’s opening weekend and are the direct causes of their clubs losing.
The first was on Saturday, when Chelsea captain, Gary Cahill, recklessly and unnecessarily lunged into a tackle in the 14th minute and caught Burnley’s Steven Defour on the shin sending him to the floor in a heap. The referee sent Cahill off with zero hesitation and not even 15 minutes into a game that was scoreless, it was already over. Burnley scored three unanswered goals before halftime. Goals that Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte, called a direct result of the lack of composure from Cahill and the team’s inability to recover from their leader’s dismissal. Another casualty of Cahill’s red card was 20-year old , Jeremie Boga, a player making his professional debut that had to be substituted after just 18 minutes, as Chelsea needed to put another defender in the game. Cahill’s tackle ruined his team’s chances of winning and ruined a special day for a young player trying to make a name for himself.
The following day, in Newcastle United’s first game of their historic 125’s anniversary season and first game back in the Premier League since May 2016, they were also undone by the selfish actions of one of their own players. In the first half, the Newcastle defenders and game plan held Tottenham’s lethal attack at bay. Rafa Benitez’s team was organized, structured and motivated and the fans at St. James Park were right behind their team, applauding every big clearance and tackle. The second half started positively, with Spurs just as frustrated as they were in the first and then, in an instant, that was gone. Newcastle midfielder, Jonjo Shelvey, intentionally and unprovoked, stomped on the ankle of Tottenham attacker, Dele Alli. The ref was looking directly at the pair during the incident and sent Shelvey off. All of the momentum United had was gone, the crowd went from cheers to groans and the Newcastle defenders, who had given everything to their cause, had been let down by their teammate. Less than 15 minutes later, Alli scored and the game was over.
There are lessons to be learned in every Premiership game week but this is one that we’ve seen before and we will see again but the message could not be anymore clear: if you want to win, keep out of the referee’s notebook.