Twenty minutes after the Giallorossi took the lead in the first half, the beleaguered hosts were given a golden chance to equalize. Referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the penalty spot after Mehdi Benatia was judged to have pulled down striker Nicola Sansone.
Rizzoli — who officiated the 2013 Champions League Final — gave the spot kick on the advice of the goal-line official, who felt an infringement had taken place. Roma's players clearly didn't feel the same way, as they proceeded to harangue the officials for nearly five minutes. Sassuolo's players also joined in with the complaining by insisting Benatia deserved a red card.
Roma's protests worked a charm, as the ref decided to overturn his own decision and award a drop kick instead. The Guardian translates Benatia's comments to Sky Sport Italia:
"The referee didn't want to give the penalty but the goal-line official told him it was a penalty. He asked Sansone to tell him the truth, assuring that he would not get a yellow card (for diving). That made us a little angry, because you can't ask that sort of thing to a player whose team are battling relegation. Sansone said that he slipped but that I had pulled his shirt and the referee decided not to give the penalty."
Serie A has thus far resisted calls to use goal-line technology, favoring the extra official on the line. The advantages of using a human were made quite clear in this game, as they can make decisions around the whole penalty area. That are evetually overturned by player power.
UPDATE: Sadly, it has emerged that a fan died of a heart attack in the stands during this game.
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