Keith Hackett column: Raheem Sterling went to ground far too easily and England shouldn’t have been given a penalty in Euro 2020 semi-final

We need to be honest – that should not have been a penalty to England. Raheem Sterling went to ground far too easily and the referee, Danny Makkelie, got it badly wrong.

Forget all the euphoria around that result.

Although officiating standards at Euro 2020 have generally been very good, Makkelie has been one of the few who has been inconsistent with his decision making.

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Don’t forget that there was a continual failure by the official to punish Jannik Vestergaard for a series of fouls.

Given that the Vestergaard ‘foul’ ended up effectively deciding the match, this was a serious error on Makkelie’s part.

Not to mention the two balls that were on the field of play as Sterling made his way into the box.

There were two balls on the pitch just before Raheem Sterling earned England a penalty against Denmark

It’s becoming a huge problem for today’s referees to be confronted by players who are looking to earn penalties. Those that go over at the merest hint of contact – as Sterling did.

It’s a tough enough job out in the middle as it is, without players making their jobs harder.

Perhaps it’s worth dwelling on the fact that when TV commentators and pundits were discussing the penalty incident, none could even agree on what the alleged foul was. A possible trip by Joakim Maehle? A body check by Mathias Jensen?

Keith Hackett
Former Premier League and FIFA referee Keith Hackett is a columnist for

Quite frankly, neither looked serious enough for Sterling to go over.

The referee should’ve gone to look at his monitor, and I’m convinced that had he done so, he would’ve overturned his decision.

VAR was never going to call it as a clear and obvious error by Makkelie and get him to look at it again.

The technology has generally worked well at this tournament, and certainly far smoother than in the Premier League, where the process is slow and cumbersome.

However, this was a rare failing, and the fact that England were the beneficiaries should not disguise that fact – even if England fans won’t care.

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  1. England can only win “with the little help of my friends” in 1966 a goal that wasn’t a goal, in 2021 a Penaten that wasn’t a penalty

  2. What about the obvious earlier penalty not for a foul on Kane which was clear and obvious and not given. You might also want to look at Denmark’s free kick. There was no foul! The fact is ; Denmark we’re lucky , it should have been 4:1 at least. They were no where near the quality of England.
    So change the record England deserve their place , simple as that.

  3. I would argue that such controversial incidents in the penalty area are are too important to be decided essentially by the referee’s subjective opinion. As the television images do not prove conclusively if Raheem Sterling was tripped/pushed or if he dived, though I am inclined to agree with Keith Hackett’s interpretation, by any criteria it could not be a clear and obvious penalty and that in itself should have been sufficient for the referee’s decision to have been overturned. VAR should focus not on deciding whether or not a referee makes a clear and obvious error in awarding a penalty, but on whether or not it is indisputably a penalty.

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