Should Liverpool's goal against Sunderland have stood? And was it within the "spirit" of the game?

It was one of those bizarre moments when football managers and pundits say the referee is entirely to blame. Sunderland were awarded a free-kick against Liverpool, took a quick one but the referee, Stuart Attwell, called it back. The ball went back to the right spot, at which point Sunderland's Michael Turner backheeled the ball towards his goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. Was he taking the free-kick or was he rolling it back to the keeper to take? Either way, Fernando Torres nipped in, squared the ball and Dirk Kuyt scored. You can see video of the incident here.

Sunderland were furious, Liverpool were a goal up, and the referee's association was forced to issue a statement saying that the official was correct. The Professional Game Match Officials organisation said:

"According to the laws of the game, having stopped the game for any infringement the referee is required to 'indicate the restart of the match.' In practice, in the majority of cases, referees indicate for the restart by gesturing to players to take the kick. These gestures can be minimal … there is no requirement by Law to use the whistle to make the indication. The ball is then in play when it is kicked and moves. So, in this case, the ball was in play as soon as it is kicked by a Sunderland player."

Mick Dennis in the Express argues:

Attwell was right in law. Technically, Turner had taken the kick. But the ref committed the cardinal sin of turning away and not watching what happened next, then flouted the spirit of the game by letting the goal stand. The leading supplier of refs' kits produces a range of T-shirts with the logo "Law 18" – a reference to the saying that, as well as the 17 laws of football, the unwritten 18th is to use common sense. Attwell obviously hasn't got the T-shirt.

Former referee Graham Poll in the Daily Mail said that this was the latest in "a catalogue of errors" by Attwell, including awarding a goal to Reading against Watford in 2008 when the shot had actually gone wide.

Perhaps Saturday's goal was divine justice for the beach ball goal with which Sunderland beat Liverpool last season. Liverpool fans might accept that, Sunderland fans not so much.

Should Torres have declined to take the ball through and score? In a world where footballers happily get their opponents sent off, does anyone expect a professional footballer to be so magnanimous? And, what about the Sunderland players who at the very least were contriving to take the free-kick for a second time not at the point at which the offence was actually committed?

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.