Unlike the vast majority of the London Stadium crowd, his opponents and millions of supporters watching West Ham United’s Premier League fixture with Chelsea on television around the world, Tomáš Souček knew the Laws of the Game.
The Hammers’ Czech midfielder was certain that, because his left arm was helping to break his fall as he slide to block Conor Gallagher’s late shot and the ball hit his left hand, a penalty would not be awarded against him.
He was correct.
Referee Craig Pawson and VAR Neil Swarbrick both decreed that the situation should not be penalised by a spot-kick, play went on, and the Irons secured a battling 1-1 draw in east London.
Of course, the Chelsea players were not happy, and nor was the Blues’ social media team, but, by the Laws of the Game, the correct decision had been made.
For Souček, the incident completed a dramatic afternoon for a player who had started the game on the bench, been introduced as a substitute for the injured Paquetá and seen a late goal ruled out by Swarbrick as Declan Rice had been offside in the build-up to his close-range finish.
Speaking to West Ham TV, the No28 was typically amiable and calm, even when discussing events which had seen temperatures raised on the pitch just moments before.
Tomáš, that last five minutes must have had every emotion?
“Yes, on one hand it was difficult for me because I thought I had scored the winning goal and made it 2-1 to us, but in the end it was offside. We were so close to beating Chelsea again at our home stadium.”
Before that, you had to come on in a fast-moving game?
“It’s not easy. It’s difficult for anybody who is coming on the pitch because the game was already up and down and we didn’t like going 1-0 down. I wanted to get up to speed as quickly as possible on the pitch and it was good that, after conceding, we got our equalizer before half-time.”
That’s two weeks in a row we’ve come from behind to draw against a big team?
“Yes, that’s great. At Newcastle away we conceded in the first two minutes and we didn’t like it that it happened, but it’s great that we reacted and didn’t concede more goals. It’s very important for our spirit that everybody played hard and we came back. I’m so happy for this and for our character and I just hope we’ll carry on.”
When the ball hit you at the end, what did you think?
“My father [František] was a goalkeeper, so I did a save! No, it wasn’t [a penalty] because I just fell on the floor and I know the rules that if I am on the floor and I touch the floor with my hand, even if the ball touches it, it is not handball, so I was quite clear that it’s not, but you never know what can show. It was really difficult for me, because I scored just one minute before that, so in my head it was in, but by the rules I was quite sure it would not be a penalty.”
If Paquetá is going to miss some games, presumably you will be ready to step in?
“Yes, I will be ready to do whatever it takes – if we need a goalkeeper, I will go there, and if it is somewhere else, I want to play as many games as I can.
“I played nearly every game since I came, so I am ready. The last two games I was on the bench, but I was still ready to play and whenever I get called, I am ready to challenge.”