Son Heung-min’s tackle on Andre Gomes was a reckless act of retribution
There was an incident at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon, shortly before Andre Gomes’ season was cruelly ended, which has gone under the radar somewhat.
Son went down but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on as the hosts looked for an equaliser. He was soon back on his feet and the game continued.
Andre Gomes caught Son Hueng-min in the face with his arm in the 76th minute at Goodison
Son put in a reckless challenge on Gomes from behind just two minutes after the incident
Gomes was left with a fracture dislocation of his right ankle after crashing into Serge Aurier
Less than two minutes later, Gomes was writhing on the ground, pain etched all over his face, with a fracture dislocation of his right ankle.
The freak injury occurred because the former Barcelona star’s boot appeared to get caught in the ground just as he clattered into Spurs defender Serge Aurier.
But what put him in that position was a reckless lunge from Son, the man who was still aggrieved by the foul he believed he’d been on the receiving end of just moments before.
Match of the Day 2 didn’t even include the incident in their highlights package, but for those watching on Sky Sports, or live at Goodison, Son’s frustrations were clear.
In the build-up to his challenge on Gomes, the South Korean unsuccessfully attempted to kick Alex Iwobi. Then the red mist descended.
The expression on Son’s face as he slid in on his opponent from behind, with studs showing and no intention of winning the ball, told the true story of the tackle.
Son appeared to have no intention of winning the ball as he took out Gomes from behind
Cenk Tosun and Lucas Digne attend to Gomes during the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Sunday
It wasn’t mistimed. He wanted revenge on Gomes for the ‘elbow’ two minutes earlier and was willing to take a booking to bring him down and stop Everton’s attack.
In the end it turned out to be red, with Atkinson seemingly taking the severity of Gomes’ injury into account by ditching his yellow in favour of sending Son off. The decision has since been rescinded.
Tottenham’s popular forward clearly had no intention of inflicting any sort of injury on the Portuguese, and he was visibly distressed, crying his eyes out after witnessing his opponent’s ankle bent in an unnatural direction.
But should that mean he’s deemed as innocent as the man who faces months of rehabilitation before he can pull on his boots again? Certainly not.
Son was left visibly emotional after his challenge played a part in Gomes’ serious injury
Gomes spoke publicly for the first time on Wednesday after suffering a horror ankle injury
The narrative since Sunday has been dominated by talk of Son being devastated, of Spurs offering him help to recover psychologically and, after his two goals against Red Star Belgrade, his prayer gesture to Gomes.
And while it’s understandable that any player partly responsible for a such horrific injury would struggle to come to terms with it, the nature of Son’s tackle seems to have been completely glossed over by many.
Evertonians are not in that category. Many feel that the former Bayer Leverkusen star has got off lightly, with manager Marco Silva, or any of his squad, failing to speak out about the dangerous manner of his challenge.
Spurs, meanwhile, were quick to paint Son as whiter than white.
Son held his hands together in prayer after his goal in the Champions League on Wednesday
Son also formed a love heart with his hands following his second goal against Red Star
Dele Alli described him as ‘one of the nicest people you would want to meet’ in an interview just minutes after the full-time whistle, while social media widely backed a player who has developed a reputation as one of the Premier League’s more likable characters in recent years.
It is certainly true that Son appears to be a good guy – despite having previously shown a petulant side to his game here and in Germany – and his respectful celebrations in the Champions League on Wednesday night were a nice touch.
But the reaction to Sunday’s incident has made him out to be a victim, when the only victim at Goodison Park was the man who is recovering at home after surgery.
Son has even escaped a ban for his tackle after a successful appeal by Spurs and will face no punishment for his role in Gomes’ first season as a permanent Everton player being brought a premature end.
Gomes, who signed permanently for Everton last summer, is carried off on a stretcher
For a fanbase who saw two contentious VAR decisions go against them in the same game, and have witnessed their own players, most notably Oumar Niasse and Phil Jagielka, handed controversial suspensions in recent seasons, that is particularly galling.
There is no doubt that Son regrets the part he played in Gomes’ injury, and that he has shown remorse for his involvement, with reports suggesting he sent the ex-Valencia star a personal message as he waited to undergo surgery on Monday.
And who knows, perhaps he was so upset immediately after the incident because he knew that he wasn’t really going for the ball, and that if he’d just chased back instead of diving in, then this could’ve all been avoided.
Either way, Son does not deserve to be completely absolved of blame. Those acting like he did nothing wrong would be wise to take another look.