On the 23rd match day, two Gladbachers were unsportsmanlike: Marcus Thuram tried to score a penalty, Ramy Bensebaini was sent off after malicious applause. The top game, meanwhile, also has a top referee.
If it weren't for the video assistant, Marcus Thuram, forward in the service of Borussia Mönchengladbach, would have been successful in his team's game against SC Freiburg (0-0) after 65 minutes with his brazen attempt to flay a penalty. The France international entered the visitors' penalty area with the ball at his feet and hooked around Nicolas Höfler before finally falling unnecessarily. Referee Benjamin Brand nevertheless decided on a penalty kick, and in fact one could get the impression at the real speed that Höfler had tripped the Gladbacher by tripping or kicking.
The repetitions then showed clearly what had actually happened: There was no contact against Thuram. Höfler stretched his right leg in the direction of his opponent, but put his foot down in time and did nothing forbidden. Thuram fell of his own accord, without any contact, and then theatrically held his left ankle, which the Freiburger had not even touched lightly. Video assistant Benjamin Cortus therefore rightly recommended Brand an on-field review, after which the referee took back the penalty kick and continued the game with a dropped ball.
So he decided "no foul" but not "Schwalbe", otherwise Thuram would have received a yellow card and an indirect free kick for SC Freiburg. What was the most important thing at that moment was summed up by Sascha Stegemann, who acted as referee himself in the match between 1. FSV Mainz 05 and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (1-0) on Saturday, on the show "Doppelpass": "We are all I'm glad there wasn't that penalty and the game wasn't decided by that penalty." It is a good opportunity "to say that the video assistant has its right to exist, that this is a very positive example of how it can work, and that the guys in Cologne did a very good job".
But why didn't Benjamin Brand, after studying the video images, decide to warn Thuram for unsportsmanlike conduct? Stegemann explained - authorized by Brand - how it came about: "He had no doubt that it was a penalty. He sees the Freiburg player's leg going out and perceives a clear contact on the shin that was the cause of the case." Brand was therefore surprised that the VAR advised him to do an on-field review. On the monitor he "looked at the pictures again and then concentrated more or less exclusively on the question: Is it a foul, yes or no?"
The referee looked at the scene three times and then came to the conclusion "that there was no criminal contact and therefore no foul". But Brand later said: "If I see it again now, a yellow card would have been very appropriate." It wasn't the first time that Thuram caught the eye with a swallow: in the World Cup final against Argentina in December, for example, he also tried to fool the referee and flay a penalty. However, the referee didn't fall for it and warned him. Even Gladbach coach Daniel Farke sees a problem: "We talked about it at the beginning of the season in preparation because I had the feeling that Marcus tended to fall too easily. I don't think that's appropriate and it's not common at Bundesliga level."
Thuram wasn't the only one who attracted attention in the game against Freiburg for his unsportsmanlike behavior - and was warned in the 84th minute for complaining. Three minutes later, his team-mate Ramy Bensebaini kicked the ball away after a free-kick he didn't agree with and acknowledged the yellow card, which Benjamin Brand rightly showed him, with malicious applause. There was - just as rightly - yellow-red, but Bensebaini did not want to see his wrongdoing at all: Before he disappeared into the dressing room, he called out the French words "fils de pute" to the referee, in German: "son of a bitch". .
The referee team missed that, but the cameras caught it, which is why the DFB control committee is now investigating. It is quite possible that Bensebaini will be suspended for more than one game. Holger Badstuber, for example, had to sit out two games after being sent off the field as a VfB Stuttgart player with yellow-red in October 2019 and then shouting at the referees: "You've become pussies!" The referees did not notice this insult either, but the microphones on the edge of the field caught it.
In the top game of the weekend between Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig (2-1) on Friday evening, referee Sven Jablonski offered a top performance. The 32-year-old let the fast-paced and intense game run smoothly and used his discretion wisely, not least when it came to personal penalties. He saved Christopher Nkunku an early sending off after fifteen minutes when the Leipzig player painfully stopped the rushing Marco Reus with a kick from behind in the calf with the cleats. The ball was out of reach for Nkunku, which was another reason for a red card.
But because the contact was short-lived and not overly intense - Nkunku hadn't used a straight leg or put his weight on his foot to dig the studs into Reus' calf - Jablonski had, according to the current interpretation of the rules the necessary leeway to leave it at a yellow card. If you look at the scene in isolation, the arguments for an exclusion prevail, but in the context of the game the warning fit, which was also well accepted. After 23 minutes, Nkunku committed another foul, this time against Marius Wolf, but he only hit his toe, which is why the referee understandably did not give yellow-red.
Jablonski's generous line, which suited the character of the game, also benefited Nico Schlotterbeck – who got away without a yellow card after fouling Benjamin Henrichs in the 35th minute – and Henrichs, whose rustic leg scissors against Julian Ryerson only resulted in a warning after 52 minutes. In borderline cases, the referee always decided against a possible harsher sanction and did well with it. The penalty decision for BVB in the 20th minute was also correct, when Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich hit Reus' lower leg with his upper arm in his own penalty area, after which the Dortmund captain, in a promising position, was unable to get the ball on goal and fell. The only blemish: Blaswich should have received a yellow card, because the goalkeeper had thwarted an obvious goal chance for the hosts with his foul in the fight for the ball.
With a courageous game management, coherent decisions in all game-relevant situations, a clear line and a decisive demeanor, Sven Jablonski secured the respect of the players and the benches. He was the right leader of this meeting and showed once again that he is also absolutely up to demanding tasks. After a rather turbulent start to the year, the referees can now look back on another matchday that went well for them overall. They are not responsible for the indiscipline of some actors.