Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs have both been cleared after Gibbs was mistakenly sent off in Saturday’s 6-0 defeat at Chelsea.
A Football Association panel decided that referee Andre Marriner not only dismissed the wrong player, but that Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal-line handball did not deserve a red card.
Neither player will serve any ban following the incident and Marriner will referee Southampton’s home game with Newcastle on Saturday.
Refereeing officials felt that the 43-year-old, who apologised for mixing up the players’ identities, should be given the chance to get over his mistake immediately, rather than being stood down for the weekend.
All four officials who were involved at Stamford Bridge will officiate in matches this weekend.
Arsenal claimed that not only was Gibbs sent off by mistake after Oxlade-Chamberlain deliberately blocked the ball with his hand, but that Oxlade-Chamberlain’s offence had not prevented either a goal or a goal-scoring opportunity because Eden Hazard’s shot was going wide.
The sport’s rules, drawn up by world governing body Fifa, state that while a player should be booked for deliberately handling the ball, a red card should only be shown for “the unacceptable and unfair intervention that prevented a goal being scored”.
They make no mention of a player’s intent when handling the ball.
On the matter of mistaken identity, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, which is responsible for training officials, said after the game that such cases were “very rare”.
“While this was a difficult decision, Andre is disappointed that he failed to identify the correct player,” it stated, adding that “He expressed his disappointment to Arsenal when he was made aware of the issue.”
Uefa spokesperson Pedro Pinto said the error highlighted the need for additional goal-line officials.
He tweeted: “With an additional assistant referee on the end line, referee would not have got that sending off wrong. Technology is not the answer – more eyeballs are the answer.”