MARTIN SAMUEL: This was an accident EVERYONE could see coming… Had the flag gone up when it should, Rui Patricio’s collision with Conor Coady would not have occurred. He will be OK but football might not be so lucky next time
- Rui Patricio suffered a head injury as he collided with team-mate Conor Coady
- The accident would have been avoided if that offside flag had not been delayed
- The Wolves goalkeeper will be okay but football might not be so lucky next time
It was the accident waiting to happen. The accident entirely preventable. The accident everyone in football could see coming yet were seemingly powerless to prevent.
As Rui Patricio lay stricken on the pitch, the medics in attendance, the minutes ticking by, it was, we can only hope, nothing more significant than a teachable moment.
This is what happens if football people — players and coaches — are removed from football. This is what happens if the rule-makers rule unopposed. The delayed flag is an innovation that works well with VAR, that sits sweetly with football’s new normal and is no doubt considered a roaring success in the offices of FIFA and beyond.
Rui Patricio suffered a head injury as he collided with his Wolves team-mate Conor Coady
It was an accident that everyone could see coming and one that was entirely avoidable
Yet this is what football feared. This is why coaches such as Pep Guardiola have appeared increasingly anxious and angry on the touchlines.
Football is a dangerous game, certainly for goalkeepers. Ask Petr Cech, who played with a head protection throughout the final 13 years of his career, after almost losing his life at Reading in 2006.
There was always the possibility that in these meaningless, dead stretches of play that unfold after an offside flag should have been raised, tragedy could occur.
And on Monday it nearly did. Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Rui Patricio will be OK, according to his manager Nuno Espirito Santo. Yet that is by luck, not judgement. His collision with his defender Conor Coady, knee to head, was entirely avoidable.
The linesman could see Mohamed Salah was offside before the collision happened
The linesman knew that Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was offside an age ago. It was five seconds between breach and flag and five seconds in football is a significant expanse of play. Had the flag gone up when it should, it would have been plenty of time for all those involved in the action to slow, to ease, to evade.
Instead, play carried on, as furious as ever. Salah trying to score, Coady and Patricio battling to keep him at bay.
Only when the ball was in the net was the flag raised. By then, Patricio’s life could have changed, permanently.
Experienced football personnel have been counselling against this all season. Concerned that a hamstring might strain, a muscle might tear and all in vain. Here was a glimpse of the worst case scenario. Is it really worth this, to prop up the possible failings of VAR?
Nuno Espirito Santo said the goalkeeper will be OK but football might not be so lucky next time
What happened to player welfare, to the reckoning the sport is now making with concussion? In the television studio, they skirted around these issues, avoided the questions, chose not to focus on what might have been.
And maybe that will be football’s strategy, too. Until the day awful reality has to be faced. The sport got away with one on Monday. Next time, it might not be so lucky.
And when will that be? Tonight, tomorrow, next month, next year? But it is coming. One day, it is coming.
And when it does, it will be too late to debate the better way.
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