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Why Tottenham’s Vicario wouldn’t have been sent off for handling ball vs West Ham thanks to little-known rule

It turns out that Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario would not have been sent off had he held onto the ball to stop West Ham from scoring.

West Ham pulled off an extraordinary 2-1 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday evening to condemn their London rivals to a fourth defeat in five Premier League games.

The hosts dominated large parts of the game and could have been out of sight by half-time, but Cristian Romero’s first half header was the only thing separating the sides at the break.

The Hammers defended resolutely in the second half and pounced on two defensive errors to snatch two goals and a huge three points.

West Ham’s second goal happened in comical fashion. Vicario beat Hammers’ striker Jarrod Bowen to a short backpass, but he could only push the ball into the path of James Ward-Prowse, who slotted the ball into the empty goal after hitting the post with his initial effort.

Commentating on the match for Prime Video, Alan Shearer questioned why Vicario didn’t hold onto the ball.

Twitter/X users immediately picked up on this, slating Shearer for not realising that Vicario was dealing with a backpass.

One user said: “Is Shearer saying that Vicario should have came out and picked the ball up? He does realise that it would have been a clear back pass and in that case an instant red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity? I don’t get what else he wants Vicario to do there?”

However, Vicario would not have been sent off had Ward-Prowse failed to find the back of the net.

Rules state that a goalkeeper cannot be sent off – or even cautioned – for denying a goal by handling a back pass inside the penalty area.

The rule states: “Where a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by a handball offence, the player is sent off wherever the offence occurs (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area).”

So, if West Ham had failed to score after Vicario handled Destiny Udogie’s backpass, the visitors would have been awarded an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area and the goalkeeper would have escaped punishment.

You learn something new every day.

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