Why Chelsea weren't given penalty against West Ham for Tomas Soucek handball

Tomas Soucek was lucky not to concede a penalty
Tomas Soucek was lucky not to concede a penalty / Julian Finney/GettyImages

In a fiercely contested London derby rife with refereeing scrutiny, Chelsea's fervent penalty appeals fell on deaf ears in a 1-1 Premier League draw with West Ham on Saturday afternoon.

Joao Felix gave Chelsea a 16th-minute lead at West Ham's London Stadium, crisply volleying Enzo Fernandez's delicate clipped pass past Lukasz Fabianski. Emerson Palmieri levelled against his former employers inside the opening half-hour but the controversy was saved for the closing stages.

Tomas Soucek had a header chalked off in the 83rd-minute after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) flagged him offside. However, the distant officials were conspicuous by their lack of involvement when Soucek appeared to block Conor Gallagher's shot with his arm right at the death.

Why Chelsea weren't given penalty against West Ham

Kai Haverz laid the ball off to Gallagher in the 89th minute. Taking aim from the edge of the box, the substitute's effort was scuttling towards the bottom corner until Soucek diverted it past the post.

Soucek dropped to his knees to connect with the ball but replays suggested that the left hand of the Czech Republic international steered the shot wide as he crumpled to the turf.

Law 12 of the FA rulebook states that it is a handball offence "if a player deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball".

The rulebook goes on to clarify: "A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation."

By putting his left hand in front of his knee, Soucek's body was "unnaturally bigger". However, the VAR didn't advise referee Craig Pawson to the pitch-side monitor which suggests that they believed Soucek's handball was a "consequence of, or justifiable by" his body movement, i.e. reaching out his arm to break his fall was justifiable.

BT Sport's Peter Walton, a former Premier League referee, disagreed with the on-field decision: "My view is it's a penalty kick."