Offside Rule When Past The Last Defender

How Does The Offside Rule Apply When You Are Past The Last Defender?

Last updated on October 8th, 2021

You may have seen this second goal in the infamous match between Liverpool and Chelsea in the 2013/14 season.

For Chelsea’s second goal, Fernando Torres and Willian are already past the last defender. When Torres squared the ball to Willian who scored the goal, no offside was given!

So how does the offside rule apply in this scenario? Here’s what you need to know.

How does the offside rule apply when you are past the last defender?

You are in an offside position if you are ahead of both the ball and the second-last opponent. If you are ahead of the second-last opponent but behind the ball, you are still onside.

Here is a further explanation of this technicality of the offside rule.

You are not offside when you are behind the ball

To be in an offside position, you will need to be ahead of both the ball and the second-last opponent. If you are behind the ball, you do not fulfil one of the two criteria that is required to be met for offside, and hence you are not in an offside position.

According to the Laws of the Game, a player is in an offside position if:

  • any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
  • any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
  • The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered.

In the second section, it’s mentioned that you cannot be ahead of both the ball AND the second-last opponent.

This means for you to be in an offside position, you need to meet both conditions:

  1. You are ahead of the ball
  2. You are ahead of the second-last opponent

If you are behind the ball but ahead of the second-last opponent, you are still onside!

Here are the different scenarios explained in detail below:

#1 You are ahead of the ball and the second-last opponent

When you are attacking, you may find yourself in a position where you’re both ahead of the ball and the second-last opponent.

If you’re in the same position as Player ‘2’, you will be in an offside position.

This was the scenario that happened to Yerry Mina when he attempted this shot against Manchester United.

From the replay, you can see that Mina is already ahead of the last defender. Furthermore, his foot (red line) was ahead of the ball (blue line).

In this case, Mina was rightly called offside as he was ahead of both the ball and the second last defender.

If you want to find out more about offsides and body parts, you can read my guide here.

#2 You are ahead of the ball but behind the second-last opponent

This scenario usually happens in most attacking situations.

You’ll want to receive the ball from your teammate, so you’ll be further forward. However, to be onside, you’ll still need to be behind the second-last opponent.

In this scenario, you are not offside. This is because you are still in front of the second-last opponent. As such, you are still in an onside position!

#3 You are ahead of the second-last opponent but behind the ball

This last scenario normally occurs when your team is making a quick counter attack.

You and your teammate have both gotten past the last defender. Now, it is just a 2v1 situation with the goalkeeper!

To guarantee the goal, your teammate may square the ball to you when the keeper rushes towards him.

For you to be onside, you will have to make sure that you are behind the ball!

This is because you are only offside when you meet both criteria:

  1. You are ahead of the second-last opponent
  2. You are ahead of the ball

In this scenario, you are behind the ball. As such, you are still in an onside position!

Can you be offside if you are behind the ball?

If you are behind the ball, you cannot be in an offside position. You are only offside when you are ahead of both the ball and the second-last opponent.

What exactly is behind the ball?

You may be confused about what it means to be behind the ball. The easiest explanation would be that you are further away from your opponent’s goal-line compared to the ball.

The rule does not mention anything about the direction of the ball.

In the next part of the Offside law, this is mentioned:

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate

What this means is that at the moment that your teammate makes a pass, your position will be noted. If you are ahead of the ball and the second-last opponent when the ball is played, you are in an offside position.

So long as you are further away from the goal line compared to the ball or the second last opponent (or both), you will be onside!

You can see some examples of this 2v1 situation with the goalkeeper in the video below:

#1 (Ronaldo vs Bayern Munich, Champions League 2016/17)

Here’s another example of how you can be onside if you’re past the last defender but are behind the ball.

In this Champions League quarter-final match, both Marcelo and Ronaldo were past the last defender. When Marcelo squared the ball to Ronaldo, he was still behind the ball before the ball was passed!

You can see Ronaldo timing his run such that he is still behind the ball before Marcelo passed it to him. In this scenario, he is still onside!

#2 Erling Haaland vs Genk (Champions League 2019/20)

In this Champions League match, Erling Haaland completed his hat-trick with this square ball from Hwang Hee-Chan.

You can see that Haaland timed his run such that he remained behind the ball, even though he was ahead of the last defender!

#3 Bukayo Saka vs Benfica (Europa League 2020/21)

Bukayo Saka scored the equaliser in a Europa League match against Benfica.

In the replay, you can see Saka’s position when the ball was played. His knee is ahead of the second last defender.

However, he is still behind the ball before it was played!

As such, he is still onside and no offside offence is being committed.

#4 Ruiz (Own Goal) La Liga 2020/21

In this match between Barcelona and Real Betis, Griezmann’s position was not offside when Barcelona scored their second goal via an own goal.

Even though Griezmann was past the last defender, he was still behind the ball. As such, he was not called offside by the referee.

Conclusion

There are many intricacies to the offside rule, and this is one detail that you may not be aware of.

Hopefully, you understand the offside rule better, especially how it works when you are past the last defender!

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