The goalkeeper chased the ball, but did not reach it and did not use his hands to save it either. But let's imagine he did take it with his hands. And by doing so, let's imagine he would have denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO) or even an obvious goal (DOG) by that.
How do we have to decide then?
Law 12 (p. 83 LotG 2016/17) says:
"An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences:
• controls the ball with the hands for more than six seconds before releasing it
• touches the ball with the hands after:
• releasing it and before it has touched another player
• it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate
• receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate."
According to the current Laws of the Game, the correct decision therefore is: indirect free kick. And even though common sense tells us that the behaviour is at least clearly unsporting, a yellow card is not explicitly required in this passage of the law - but it can be given for a special case of unsporting behaviour.
Additionally, our fictive situation cannot be regarded as DOG(SO) offence either, as Law 12 further says:
"The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. Inside their penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any related sanction but can be guilty of handling offences that incur an indirect free kick."
In the current form of the laws, the goalkeeper cannot be punished for DOGSO by illegally stopping the ball with his hands from a return pass.
But this could change soon!
In the context of last year's revision of the Laws of the Game, the International Football Associations Board (IFAB) has made many changes and adaptions to the lawbook in terms of DOGSO offences. In the past weeks and months, we have discussed many of them.
For example, from last July on substitute players or team officials who illegally enter the field of play to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity are more heavily punished: A penalty kick is given in both cases as the interference is officially deemed as DOGSO offence by a team official or substitute (if a substitute does it like here, he is even sent off with a red card) - previously, a dropped ball and only a yellow card had to be given.
At the same time, the IFAB has partly abolished the so-called triple punishment and allows yellow cards for DOGSO offences inside the penalty area as long as the foul resulted from a genuine attempt to play the ball.
It was widely perceived as unfair that a team suffered three times for a DOGSO offence resulting from a slightly mistimed, but actually ball-orientated tackle. But it was equally perceived as unfair that a substitute player, who is warming up behind the goalline, can illegally enter the field of play and gets away with a yellow card and a dropped ball.
In conclusion, the principle or even dogma behind these DOGSO changes are, in my view, the following one: Introducing match and disciplinary sanctions that are more in line with common sense and punish extremely unfair offences in the DOGSO-area more seriously. But is an indirect free kick then enough in our fictive scenario?
According to a document the DFB allegedly received from the IFAB (or which the DFB translated from the IFAB's answers on their requests), the IFAB's members discuss to change the laws for exactly such cases from the 2017/18 season on (point 6.). Following the document, it is planned to classify this type of offence as DOGSO in future as the goalkeeper denies a clear goal or scoring opportunity with the aid of an offence. In this case, a red card should be given and a penalty kick would be the logical restart of play.
For my taste, this would be clearly more in line with the unwritten Law 18 (common sense) than an indirect free kick without any disciplinary sanction.
However, there might be one problem: Where to draw the line?
Ok, chasing the ball after a mistimed return pass, scratching it away from the goalline and preventing a clear goal by that is unfair. A penalty kick is generally more likely to result in a goal than an indirect free kick in the penalty area.
But what if a 'normal' return pass, which is going towards the ball and would enter the goal without further contact by anyone, is touched by the goalkeeper with his hands a) out of stupidity and a lack of concentration or b) because he maybe could not see from which player the ball came? Isn't then also a clear goal denied?
If these offences should be classified as DOGSO requiring a red card and penalty kick, then it will be probably up to the individual interpretation whether or not the goalkeeper behaved extremely unsportingly or not - because then we do not have clear black-or-white situations. This could automatically create grey areas, and this might create doubt and a lack of clarity in the one or other decision. Luckily these do not have happen that often.
What do you think?