In a very well-tempered match with 4 minutes remaining, an attacker dribbles around a tired and apparently frustrated defender (his team is losing 2-0). The defender, in a violent manner, deliberately kicks at but completely misses the unaware attacker, who has already sped by him with the ball.

The attacker is streaking into the Penalty Area with a perfect opportunity on goal, I holler “Advantage” and also immediately inform the defender that he will be dealt with at the next stoppage.

The attacker is rewarded with an outstanding scoring opportunity that is saved brilliantly by the keeper into the corner of the field.

I am now looking for any reasonable reason to stop play to send off the defender. However, after the ball rolls toward the corner play continues peacefully without even a hint of a foul, retaliation, or other issues. I stop play four minutes later to end the match, quietly remind the player of his earlier misconduct, he reluctantly nods in agreement, and is shown the red card.

The Laws of the Game support my decision, but many referees I have discussed the situation with have suggested I stop play after the advantage plays out (ball into corner of field) and then award an IFK to attackers after sending off the defender. How is the latter supported in Law or sense (it gives attackers two opportunities toward goal)? Are there any further alternatives other than stopping play immediately?

USSF answer (March 10, 2008):
You are, of course, perfectly within your right, under the Law, to send off the defender for attempting to kick his opponent, even after you have invoked the advantage clause. However, if you are going to punish this player off at all, whether with a sending-off or a caution, we would suggest doing it within the statutory 2-3 seconds after deciding to invoke the advantage, rather than waiting four minutes — during which time the defender has committed no further acts of misconduct, which may have been a result of your comment that you would deal with him at the next stoppage. There is no need to wait for a so-called “natural stoppage” to do this; if the act must be punished, then stop play and do it.

That brings us to a second decision you must make, whether to stop the game and then reward the attacking team for an act that apparently had no true effect on the game. You should wait long enough to see whether or not the advantage has been properly applied — in other words, the attacking team kept control of the ball, continued the attack, etc. Only then would we suggest stopping play, if necessary, and coming back to manage the situation with the defender. The extra benefit to this approach is that you can now bring the ball back and give the attackers an IFK for the misconduct (the foul having been wiped away by the advantage).

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