In football, the term last man refers to a situation wherein the attacking player owns the ball and is faced with one opposing defender standing between him and the goal. If the defender commits a foul against the attacking player, a red card is given as a penalty. This is often referred to as a professional foul.
Understanding Last Man in Football
The last man is considered a deliberate foul against an attacking player to prevent him from scoring a goal. The defender would deny the other player from scoring an obvious opportunity to make a goal by committing a professional foul. This kind of attack would usually result in a free kick or penalty kick to the attacking team. Despite the awarding of a free-kick, this act lowers the chance of scoring as compared to its original position during the play.
Origin of the Last Man Terminology
The concept of the last man originated during the 1980 FA Cup Final. Paul Allen of West Ham had an opportunity to score a goal. To prevent Allen from making a clear run at a goal, Willie Young of Arsenal deliberately committed a foul on Allen. However, since the term is not included in the Laws of the Game for football, the referee could only caution Willie Young and award Allen a free-kick.
In 1990, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) made a final rule regarding the last man and incorporated it into the Laws of the Game. The referees were instructed during the 1990 World Cup that defending players who deliberately commit a foul are send off for a professional play. The following year, another rule was added stating that a player committing such offense in denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, shall be sent off for serious foul play.
It was in 2016 when the Laws of the Game were amended in terms of the last man. These changes were made to prevent “double jeopardy,” which means that due to professional foul play, it resulted in receiving a red card and a penalty kick. In the amendment, the defending player that committed a professional foul will receive a yellow card instead of a red card resulting in a penalty kick. This penalty should be awarded, provided that there was a genuine attempt of the player to deny a goal-scoring opportunity.