Great Britain

Football’s most innocuous incidents are now upstaging the moments that really matter

F

ootball statisticians generally agree that penalties have a conversion rate of around 76-80 per cent. Presumably that figure bumps up a little when, say, Harry Kane or Bruno Fernandes is standing over the ball, and based on this weekend’s evidence it goes down when any Brighton player steps up. It is, though, always a decisive advantage in a football match and a rare and precious thing at the highest level: a free shot at goal.

This basic premise got lost in the only talking point of the weekend’s big showdown between Chelsea and Manchester United, which turned into a predictably underwhelming 0-0 draw. David de Gea made a game-turning save, but that faded into irrelevance in the post-game narrative.

United supporters were enraged on social media by replays which showed Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi jabbing the ball with the back of his hand. Pundits spent much of the day dissecting the incident, and a photo which later emerged showing the wing-back wearing the ball like a wedding ring did little to appease furious fans.

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