Sports blog: A tale of two penalties

Callum Wilson scores against Tottenham Hotspur from the penalty spot to equalise for Newcastle United deep into stoppage time Credit: PA Images

By Simon O'Rourke, Sports Correspondent

Two penalties, both controversial in their own way, provided the North East narrative this weekend. 

Both penalties were scored. One provided an unexpected uplift. The other was just plain uplifting. 

Let's start with the headline grabber: Newcastle United's get-out-of-jail-free card away at Spurs. For what it's worth, I despise the current version of the handball law. It just seems ridiculous to me that the idea of intent has been taken away. When Andy Carroll headed the ball onto the back of Eric Dier's arm in stoppage time in North London, Dier had his back turned. There was absolutely no intent to handle the ball or gain an advantage. He wasn't looking and he couldn't get out of the way. But under the current iteration of the law, that's a penalty. That's an important part of this: The Magpies didn't cheat to earn a point at Spurs, they were simply the latest beneficiaries of what the majority considers to be a bad law. 

Referee Peter Bankes checks the VAR pitch side monitor before giving a penalty for a handball by Eric Dier. Credit: PA Images

But let's not forget to address the elephant in the corner of Newcastle's room. They simply didn't deserve that level of fortune. Spurs dominated the game and must still be kicking themselves now. Only the excellent Karl Darlow and the sturdy Tottenham woodwork stopped this being a rout. Steve Bruce's team played poorly, especially going forward. Callum Wilson's penalty was their first and only shot on target. The Magpies didn't manage a single shot on target against Brighton the previous weekend.

Credit to Wilson for keeping his cool when his moment arrived yesterday, but he's already looking isolated and starved of service. The bottom line: last season's glaring creativity problems haven't disappeared overnight. 

A little under 24 hours earlier, at a freezing cold Stadium of Light, Denver Hume burst into the Peterborough penalty area and was challenged by Jack Taylor. A penalty was awarded. Sunderland were, understandably, convinced it was a correct decision. Peterborough were, equally understandably, convinced it was an awful miscarriage of justice. 

Grant Leadbitter picked up the ball and walked away to compose his thoughts while the visiting team protested the decision. 

Grant Leadbitter playing for Sunderland during the 2019 Checkatrade Trophy Final Credit: PA Images

Grant has had a lot to think about in recent times. A reminder of the heartfelt message he posted on his Instagram account earlier this month: 

"This is a message to say thank you after some of the most difficult days and months of my life.First of all, I’d like to say how great it has felt being back on the training pitch and playing football in recent weeks.The minutes I have had in the friendlies so far I have enjoyed and I’m looking forward to the new season.Those were the first games I have played since the Christmas period, and I’ve never really explained the reasons why.Grief is one of the hardest things we all have to cope with, so when I lost my mam in May 2019 I tried to deal with that in the same way as when I lost my dad 11 years earlier at such a young age, by concentrating on my football career day in and day out.This time I couldn’t focus each day. It was tough, really tough and I had to be honest with myself and the people around me.

"My two sisters, my family and me were all really touched by the messages I received from Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Ipswich supporters during that time.In fact the support I have had from football fans across the country has been brilliant and something I will never forget, as have the messages from former team-mates and staff I’ve worked with.If anyone else is struggling to deal with problems such as grief on a personal level, it’s important to talk and stick with it.I have never felt comfortable commenting on my situation, I’ve chosen now so I can look forward to the new season ahead by explaining the honest reason why I needed a break.I’ve enjoyed pre-season and I’m looking forward to having the fans back in the stadium soon."Grant Leadbitter put the ball on the spot, composed himself, then smashed it into the back of the net. It was the first goal of his second spell at Sunderland - his first goal in a red and white shirt for 11 years. It was the winning goal. Apart from that, he played very well. Grant is a good man. This was a good moment.

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