Bent of Sunderland scored on Saturday against Liverpool. His shot was on the way to the left of Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper. Then it hit a red beachball that had been thrown on to the pitch just moments before. The path of Bent's shot bent even further to the left of Reina and went into the net. Reina was rooted to the spot, his eyes following the track of the red beachball which went to his right and also into the net. He almost dived at it. Replays show how distracted he was. The referee awarded a goal and all the hardened professionals, commentators, and experts around the place accepted this decision at the time.
I couldn't believe it. It did not seem fair, surely it need not be accepted as a goal. And it if was a goal, then should it have been two goals at once?
Suddenly, I could see the future. At every match from now onwards there would be a lot of balls thrown on to the pitch by supporters hoping to intercede with the trajectory of shots at goal. Or the trajectory of balls going for corners, goal-kicks, or anywhere at all. What was the referee thinking of?
You see lots of arguments involving players, their managers and the match officials about incidents on the field. This goal incident seemed barely contentious at all. Nobody it seemed knew enough to gainsay the referee at the time or even in comment just after the match. Only later did I read what seemed to make sense.
The referee was in error and should not have allowed the goal. Instead there should have been a bounced ball on the spot where the collision of the red beachball with the real football took place. An 'outside object' had interfered with the course of play.