2 players from opposing teams running towards goal, side by side enter the penalty area. Only the goalkeeper is between them and the goal. the ball is at waist height in front of the attacking player. The defending player raises his foot across the attacker and gets a slight touch on the ball (just enough to take it away from the attacker). At this stage with the defender’s leg outstretched the attacker falls to the ground.
There is no question that the defender is responsible for tripping the attacker in the penalty area… But there is also no doubt about it that the defender definitely played the ball away before making any sort of contact with the attacker.
What should the result be? play on? penalty? red card?
USSF answer (May 6, 2009):
You do not mention any contact between defender and attacker (opponent). If we assume that there was indeed contact, then we have tripping, just as you suggest, which is punishable by (in this case) a penalty kick. If there was no tripping, then there was a good possibility of playing dangerously, punishable by an indirect free kick. If it was, in the opinion of the referee, playing dangerously, rather than a simple fair play for the ball, then in either case the correct action to be taken is to send off the defender for “denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick.” If it was a fair play for the ball, there is no infringement of the Law and nothing should be called.