The refereeing of FIFA referee Sergei Karasev in the Dynamo-Zenit (0:2) match was one of the most discussed topics following the round. Dissatisfaction with the work of the referee team was simultaneously expressed by the head coach of Dynamo Slavisha Jokanovic and representatives of the top management of the club, and midfielder Denis Makarov even received a call to the RFU FTC for offering a side referee to buy tickets to the circus. At the same time, the head of the Expert Referee Commission Pavel Kamantsev stood up for Karasev, noting that the referee “generally coped with the match” and “did not make wrong decisions in key moments.” In Dynamo, they paid attention not to specific key episodes, but to the difference in the interpretation of similar moments during the entire game.
It is impossible not to recall that Karasev judged the game “Dynamo” – “Zenith” for the third time in a row (the results are two victories for “Zenith” and a draw). It seems that such a series is a unique case. It is quite possible that the “hat-trick” of Karasev’s appointments in itself became a catalyst for negativity, because Dynamo had complaints about the work of the referee after previous meetings with St. Petersburg, as well as after two matches with Spartak. Karasev also worked at games with red and white in the 2022/23 season – in the fall he did not whistle after Sobolev knocked out Evgeniev with a kick in the head, after which the Dynamo conceded a goal, and in the spring he sent off Dynamo Varela already in the first half.
It is hard to imagine that in Russian football there are no referees other than Karasev who are able to work out a game of the Dynamo-Zenith and Dynamo-Spartak level. Why it was necessary to take reputational risks and again unnerve one of the clubs in a landmark game is a huge question for the leaders of domestic refereeing.
Nevertheless, the choice was once again made in favor of Karasev. In order to assess the legitimacy of the indignation of the Dynamo team with his work, the editors of Sovetsky Sport carefully reviewed the match, evaluating each minor episode, and additionally consulted with a number of former referees and refereeing experts.
As a result, we noted for ourselves more than 15 episodes of the game. Most of them can be called secondary in terms of the dramaturgy of the match. Each such moment in itself is definitely not scandalous and did not have a direct impact on the result. However, if we consider all the episodes as a whole, then the position of Dynamo becomes much more understandable: the referee really assessed similar moments in completely different ways. Here are a few key points to explore.
1. A number of controversial, boundary issues Karasev interpreted in one direction.
9:17. Not recorded foul Barrios in midfield. At the whistle, the player should have received a guaranteed yellow card for disrupting a promising attack.
18:12 and 20:24. Wendel does not fight for the top ball, while making a slight movement of the body into Norman. In the air, this is enough to lose balance. The second similar episode – with the participation of Casierra. Here you can note the sequence of the referee – he does not whistle. But in general, at such moments, a foul is more often recorded.
85:30. A strange corner kick in favor of Zenit, when Dynamo had to win back. There was no touch of the defender.
91:24. The controversial situation with the participation of Dynamo player Gladyshev is very similar to a corner, but the decision is in favor of Zenit, a goal kick is assigned. This means that the guests will definitely not fly from the standard. Moreover, in the next attack, Zenit scores the second goal.
2. Wrong position of the chief referee during the development of the attack.
Twice the referee took an unfortunate position, which differs from the recommended one. Whether this is a consequence of poor form or intentional standing, it is difficult to say. But in the first case, at 01:25 at the time of transmission, he had to accelerate to the left diagonally.
In the second at 15:58 – it was not necessary to run over the attack, it was necessary to wait for the development in the “reverse diagonal”, next to the assistant.
3. Interaction in the team.
02:36. Smolov is offside. For some reason, Karasev advises the assistant to raise the flag earlier, although he acts on the recommendation. It looks strange and unusual, although the teams probably have nothing to complain about here.
4. Light pushes in the back are interpreted differently. Including so the goal was scored,
Very similar actions – light pushes in the back – were interpreted by the referee in completely different ways. When evaluating the episodes, it becomes quite clear: the struggle in one direction was allowed, in the other – no. For example, after two fouls by Norman for light pushes, it would be logical to whistle when Sergeev lightly pushed the Norwegian himself. But the whistle did not sound – Zenit scored a goal in this attack.
Many other similar episodes were later interpreted in 90% of cases in one direction. The ratio is clearly unhealthy. A number of experts believe that the foul at the first goal of Zenit should not have been recorded. But the question still arises for Karasev: why then he was inconsistent and punished Dynamo with fouls in similar episodes. Hence, among other things, the score on fouls 18:5 in favor of the hosts.
5. Rolls for disrupting attacks.
4:15 – after the violation, the referee allows Dynamo to continue the attack, although it bogged down as a result, and there was no clear prospect for its development. After a second or two, Karasev could return the foul and show a yellow card for disrupting a promising attack. After all, if it were not for that foul, Dynamo would have run away to the attack “three in two”.
Compare with the episode at 30:48. Violation on the Zenit takes place at the same point, a two-on-two attack could develop. The solution is ZhK Dynamo.
6. Let’s compare the reaction to the disagreement of the players with the decision of the arbiter.
Zenit players Lovren and Mostovoy (and twice) violently expressed their disagreement with the referee’s decisions with gestures and words, but did not receive yellow cards. But Zakharyan saw the yellow card, although there were no special gestures from him towards the referees. Apparently, only the words spoken to the assistant, and a nervous reaction towards the corner flag. Emotions, by the way, could be understood – Arsen received a painful blow to the leg in that episode, which (according to Dynamo board member Dmitry Gafin) is evidence in the form of a bloody abrasion. However, Zakharyan received a card, but the Zenit players did not. The referee was again inconsistent.
Based on the results of our analysis, it should be recognized that the arbiter cannot be reproached for mistakes in key episodes, which makes it meaningless to apply to the ESC. However, inconsistency, the difference in interpretations of similar episodes and the adoption of small decisions mainly in favor of Zenit are obvious. But I don’t want to accuse one of the best Russian referees of bias. I would like to hope that this is just the level of Karasev’s work at the moment.
“I don’t want to say that Karasev intentionally helped someone,” one of the refereeing experts, who wished to remain incognito, noted in a conversation with Soviet Sport. – But in general, abstracting from a specific game, help from the referee is not always expressed in red cards, penalties and other key decisions. Different interpretation of episodes in the center of the field in disputable situations, the ability to hold back the attack, assign a goal kick instead of a corner… This is how competent loyal refereeing usually works. Professionals don’t leave evidence.”
However, even if we agree with the fact of “disloyal refereeing”, the quality of Dynamo’s game raised questions. The blue-and-whites have yet to figure out how to bring back the bright football of last fall. It is good that the management of the club understands this, which openly says that it is necessary, first of all, to improve the game and not complain about the hegemony of Zenit and the losses as a result of the mass exodus of foreigners. So far, Zenit looks noticeably stronger than the team that spent most of last season fighting blue-white-blue for gold. And the Petersburgers hardly needed the help of a judge to prove once again their superiority.
* All screenshots from the video of the TV channel “Match Premier”