‘Deliberate pass-back’

I was watching the EPL Arsenal v Aston Villa game recently and saw what I thought was a questionable non-call. Arsenal defender Sagna cleared a ball off the goal-line that was headed into net had he not intervened. He cleared by doing a ‘semi-bicycle’ kick and just managed to keep it out. However, the clearance went straight to his beaten keeper, Almunia, who was positioned at about 6-8 yards off his line. Almunia caught it and then punted it out.

According to USSF memo, this is to be considered a deliberate kick to him, as it was most certainly deliberate intervention but not necessarily played directly to keeper. The sanction would therefore be an IDK.

Is USSF differing in their interpretation of ‘to him’ from FIFA in this regard or did the referee perhaps somehow consider this a misdirection, which IMO would be questionable, or even perhaps a trifling offense, which seems even less so? The keeper in this instance would have clearly been under pressure from attackers had he not caught it. Seems like ref let this one slide a bit too easily.

USSF answer (December 30, 2008):
Aha! While watching the game we knew we would get a question on this. We cannot read the referee’s mind, no more than we can read the player’s mind. However, the ball was clearly not meant for the goalkeeper and the referee applied Law 18, Common Sense, to this situation. The offense, if any, was extremely doubtful.

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