Kewell blocked a sure goal with his upper arm. As @georgina_turner noted, his bicep was a-wigglin’ as he turned the ball away. Yes, it was close to the shoulder, but there seems to be little argument that there was a handball and a deserved penalty.
But was it a red?
To be clear: I see both arguments. I’m not blind to the claim that he was just there, had no time to react and pull his arm away. But for my money, I see an intentional movement of the arm away from the body by Kewell to make himself wide in front of goal and block the shot. I think he meant to get any part of himself he could in front of the ball as it came at him. Was that an instinctive reaction? Maybe, but it was a reaction in my eyes, and that means he wasn’t just standing there and unluckily hit by the ball. He waved an arm out, or rather sort of left it out wide as he moved, and that’s a red.
It’s a harsh red, and I sympathize with the position that the punishment seems to outweigh the crime. The problem is, soccer provides no other alternative. If players cannot be given red for handballs in front of goal, then there’s no reason not to throw out arms on every sure-fire goal coming your way. Players will give up a penalty and take a yellow to prevent a certain goal every time. The red is the only weapon that can be used to incentivize keeping your hands at bay even when the ball’s going in. This was a case where a guy probably didn’t have to have that arm out there, and that means he had a sense of what he was doing, and that intentional choice, even if made in a split-second, has to be punished. But if you disagree, I respect that entirely. Hardly black and white here.
As I joked on Twitter, maybe the best solution would be for soccer to have a hockey-style penalty box. For grey-area calls, refs could send a man off for 15 or 30 mins, giving the aggrieved team a power play. Knowing you have a man advantage for a limited time would encourage teams to bomb forward, and would also allow teams who make a bad mistake to be punished but not ruined. We’ll see that approximately never, but it could work.
Before Kewell was tossed in the 24th, the Australians had gone ahead when a free kick bounced off of Ghana keeper Kingson and into the feet of Holman for a finish. It looked like Group D could be sent into chaos. Cue penalty, cue tie, cue a helter-skelter game the rest of the way.
You’d never now Australia was down a man. They had nearly as many chances to open up a lead as Ghana, the best coming from a shot into Kingson from Wilkshire on the break and a header from sub Scott Chipperfield right after he ran onto the pitch. Ghana spent the second half content to shoot from distance and generally looking uncomfortable with the idea of playing as a team. Only in the last 10 minutes did everything come alive for them, with a rush of action as the 90 minute mark drew close. Even then, the Australians were threatening to the last, with the final chance of the game coming off a free kick that was just long and collected by Kingson.
It sort of seems like a good result for Ghana, but they still have to at least draw with Germany to be sure of advancement. Really, this was more of a bad result for Australia. Their poor goal differential makes advancement a pipe dream.