What is going on here? Why didn’t the referee caution Newcastle’s Steven Taylor for unsporting behavior in this incident?

Answer (March 13, 2013):
While the referee was taking an inordinate amount of time in dealing with the wall, Steven Taylor was playing mind games with the goalkeeper. If what Taylor did had occurred at the taking of a corner kick, it might have been actionable, and some referees would be within their rights to do something about it if they felt it to be actionable under those circumstances. But the normal and prescribed “action” at the corner kick is usually a clear warning to the player to stop what he was doing. In this case, the referee took no action at all, although he plainly noticed Taylor jumping around. (You can see this in the video.) He was too busy establishing the distance of the wall to be proactive for the ‘keeper.

Solution: Treat such matters the same way in all cases: proactively warn the player—in this case, Taylor—and then, if his behavior continues, let the kick occur, whistle (cancel any goal), caution for USB, and restart with an IFK for the defending team. That would certainly make the would-be scorer rather unhappy with the miscreant (Taylor here), even if the free kick had been so well-taken that the miscreant’s actions played no part in the goal.

Let me be up front about this. I like Steven Taylor; he is one of my favorite pranksters (remember the ball headed to the ‘keeper from last year). He knows what is legal and what is not, and he knows when to stop, even if the referee does or says nothing about his antics. In this situation any misconduct could not be punished (and thus the goal could not be disallowed), because Taylor stopped his antics and returned to an onside position several seconds before the whistle was given for the kick. And neither the referee nor the assistant referee took any action, making Taylor’s deed “legal” in this particular case. And, other than a few minor complaints, there has been no official reaction to the incident in England.

And if we wish to be fair, referees have to admit that goalkeepers have been doing much the same thing for years: