Howard Webb admits Kovacic 'was extremely fortunate' not to see red

Howard Webb admits Man City star Mateo Kovacic ‘was extremely fortunate’ not to see red in 1-0 defeat to Arsenal after challenges on Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice on Match Officials Mic’d Up

  • Gabriel Martinelli scored the only goal to help Arsenal defeat Manchester City 
  • Howard Webb was appearing on Match Officials Mic’d Up with Michael Owen
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

PGMOL chief Howard Webb admitted that Mateo Kovacic was fortunate to remain on the field during Sunday’s clash between Manchester City and Arsenal on Match Officials Mic’d Up on Tuesday night. 

Kovacic’s challenges drew the spotlight in Sunday’s heavyweight clash between Arsenal and City at the Emirates, which saw the Gunners run away 1-0 winners. 

Gabriel Martinelli – on at the break – provided the killer blow in the tense and tight battle, with his strike late in the game deflecting off Nathan Ake to wrong-foot Ederson, thereby ending Arsenal’s 12-game losing streak to City.

But it was perhaps Kovacic’s antics in the first half that drew the greater attention, after he twice put in robust tackles, first on Martin Odegaard and then on Declan Rice, just six minutes apart. 

His lunge on Odegaard drew a yellow card from referee Michael Oliver, with a VAR check quickly following to determine whether there were grounds to upgrade the tackle to a red. 

Howard Webb believed that Mateo Kovacic was fortunate to remain on the pitch on Sunday

Kovacic came under heavy scrutiny for this two robust challenges against Arsenal

Man City’s Croatian midfielder first fouled Martin Odegaard before a challenge on Declan Rice

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However, the Croatian midfielder survived the replays, but wasted little time in testing Oliver’s nerve once again. 

He then attempted to close down Rice on the ball, but was late and clattered into the former West Ham skipper’s foot, catching him on the ankle as the Emirates erupted in calls for a sending off. 

Oliver was however unmoved and immediately waved away the calls for another booking, and with VAR unable to check yellow card challenges, the video assistants were unable to have their say on the tackle. 

‘This is clearly a poor tackle and I am pretty confident if a red card had been given by Michael Oliver on the day it would have been a very straightforward, “Check complete”.

‘But he doesn’t he issues a yellow card. I think there are a few differences here: the player, Kovacic, comes into the tackle with the right leg.

‘There’s some weight on the left leg as he lunges in, the right heel hits the ground and then the contact is a little bit more to the side with an upright foot as opposed to a side-on foot that we saw with (Malo Gusto’s foul on Lucas Digne).

‘A few small differences I think that led the VAR to think that the on-field decision here of yellow card wasn’t clearly and obviously incorrect and therefore check completing it, feeling that if he had intervened it would have been a re-refereeing of that decision by the referee on the field.’

And when asked whether Kovacic was fortunate to stay on the pitch, Webb added: ‘I do. I mean obviously the VAR can’t get involved, second yellows are something that the VAR is not able to get involved in but I think he was an extremely fortunate player to stay on the field of play.

‘The referee, one of our best referees, one of the best referees in the world, Michael Oliver will no doubt review that.’

Gabriel Martinelli scored the winning goal in the tense battle between the two rivals on Sunday

PGMOL chief Webb was joined by former Liverpool and Man United forward Michael Owen

Numerous pundits and former referees have voiced their own opinions in the ensuing days, with Gary Neville and Mark Clattenburg both claiming that the player should have seen the red. 

The show is designed to help fans understand more about the refereeing process in the top-flight, with certain VAR calls and real-time decisions dissected on television. 

Tuesday evening’s programme saw Webb and pundit Michael Owen discuss the controversial disallowed Luis Diaz goal from Liverpool’s defeat to Tottenham the weekend previous. 

The goal was disallowed despite the player being clearly onside, due to a miscommunication by the VARs who thought they were checking to confirm the goal was onside, rather than offside. 


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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