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Football: Referee Mark Halsey got it right.

Referee Mark Halsey got it right on both occasions during Sunday's clash between Villa and Arsenal.

Villa manager David O'Leary criticised Halsey for allowing Thierry Henry to take the quick free-kick which resulted in Arsenal's first goal. He was also unhappy about the penalty awarded after Kanu had been blocked by Olof Mellberg.

However, Keith Hackett, acting spokesman for the Premier League refereeing body, said: 'If a player asks if he can take a quick freekick, then the official can allow him to do that. I remember a few years ago in a match between Leeds and Arsenal, Leeds scored from a quickly-taken freekick and the manager of the team who benefited was none other than David O'Leary.

'With regard to the second goal, the word 'obstruction' no longer appears in the laws. Instead, the laws state that if a player has been unfairly impeded, the referee can award a direct free-kick. On this occasion, the referee judged that impeding had taken place and, as the incident was inside the 18-yard box, it had to be a penalty.'
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 20, 2004
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