Thursday, 18 May 2006

It's All About the Man in the Middle

The Champions’ League Final actually ended the way I had predicted before kick-off, with a 2-1 Barcelona victory.

The talk this morning however is all about the referee. We all know that the best referees are the ones no one notices. Last night’s match was shaping up into an excellent contest, until that moment in the18th minute.

Arsenal keeper Jens Lehman hauled down Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o just outside the penalty box.

Had Terje Hauge, the Norwegian whistler (© Daily Record) allowed play to continue Guily would have put Barcelona one – nil up. Both teams would have had a full compliment of players and no one would have complained.

The rules to the letter of the law state that a foul of the kind committed by Lehman means he has to receive a red card. Though the common sense decision would have been to play on and allow Barca to knock the ball into an empty net.

Playing the advantage is an option open to referees and the better ones tend to take it.

In order to put their substitute keeper on Arsenal of course had to substitute an outfield player, in this case French midfielder Robert Pires.

This incident robbed us all of what was shaping up to be a cracking match.

A similar incident happened in the semi-final of last year where Petr Cech was the keeper involved. On that occasion play was allowed to continue and Liverpool scored. Although Jose Mourinhio has whinged about that particular goal ever since.

On talkSPORT this morning they commented that Thierry Heny didn’t have the best of matches as he didn’t see much of the ball. The Frenchman actually had an excellent game under the circumstances. Henry started the match brightly and chased after every ball. When Arsenal had to reshuffle after the red card he was never going to have as much of the ball as he should, one of the very reasons the game was spoiled as a spectacle. Then in the second half he was booked after making a perfectly fair tackle. As Henry himself said the booking then had an effect on the way he could commit to challenges for the rest of the game.

The referee also handed out a pointless booking to Henrik Larsson in the final minute as he jostled Almunia in a bid to waste time. The sensible thing to do would just have been to wave play on as the Arsenal keeper had plenty of room to get the ball upfield. Instead the ref blew for a free kick and booked the Barca player. Larsson wasn’t bothered. 25 of the last 60 seconds wasted.

I don’t think the ref in any way wanted Barcelona to win, I just think he wasn’t up to it. No stranger to controversy he was previously the subject of death threats from Chelsea fans. Never trusts refs who spend too much time on their hair, they'll think they're the main attraction.

As for the game itself it was a decent show despite the ref’s best efforts. Arsenal just couldn’t hang on to their lead and after the equaliser there was only one team going to win it.

Although I wanted the Gunners to win I was happy to see ex-Celt Larsson play a major part and pick up a winner’s medal. He was the difference between the two sides creating both goals.

UPDATE: Our Norwegian whistler is now beginning to regret his red card decision.

1 comment:

Fraser said...

What about ex- Ger Gio Van Bronkhorst? booooooo, I sense an old firm bias here!!!!!