Warning: This article may appear controversial and offer opinions that are not supported by robust statistical evidence.
Now the disclaimer is out of the way, a quick poll: Who was actually unhappy that Chelsea got knocked out of the Champions League last night? Ah, a few blue-shirted arms raised – oh, and a few others too, interesting.
Now, put your hands down if you are only unhappy because all the controversies surrounding the game have given Chelsea carte-blanche to moan and whine for the next six months; and you would have just loved to have seen Barca win fair and square? Thought so.
Having already written…
…it would be silly of me to change now. So I won’t. However, I dislike nothing more than having a victory tainted by the losers believing they were robbed.
Being a fairly unbiased and balanced type of chap I have to admit that Chelsea were the victims of maybe a couple dubious refereeing decisions that could have potentially taken the game beyond Barcelona.
Normally I would feel frustrated that the Catalans have the millstone of the undeserving around their necks; but on this occasion I have been convinced that this makes it all the more hilarious.
If I could stop being consumed by mirth for a few moments to look at this objectively, there are a few points that need consideration. Firstly, Barca were denied a penalty in the first leg when Bosingwa pulled down Henry. Secondly, Alex and Ballack could well have been sent off in the first leg if the referee had decided to.
If compared to events last night, I will admit that a fit of pique at the Piqué ‘handball’ is understandable; but the injury time appeal for hands was never going to be given, no matter what Ballack may think.
As for the fouls; how many times do you hear commentators berate referees for giving penalties when “the initial contact was outside the box”? Answer: plenty. That was the circumstances of the Malouda appeal, so correct decision.
For the Drogba one, the playful cynic looking to irritate says: funny how after riding the contact, Drogba went down when he had lost control of the ball. And the downright belligerent says: well, if Drogba didn’t spend all his time trying to con referees, maybe some decisions might go his way.
In truth, it was a fairly legitimate claim, but we have all seen the ref wave play-on – as he did at the Camp Nou for Henry’s appeal last week. Therefore, honours even.
Replays have also showed that Abidal was unfortunate to be given his marching orders, as clumsy old Nicolas tripped over his own feet. So, if anything, Barcelona were hard done by on the night – anyone agree?
Even if you did have some sympathy for Chelsea when Iniesta ripped Barca’s only on-target shot past Peter Cech, that surely evaporated when you saw their behaviour after the final whistle.
Reason to feel aggrieved or not, there is simply no excuse for that. To see players behave in that manner is disgusting, and should have no place in any professional sport. Even in Rugby, the players would at least have been calling the referee “sir”.
It is however, not as if Chelsea do not have some history for this sort of thing. John Terry especially. The erstwhile England captain is a perennial offender despite ironically being an ambassador for the Respect Campaign.
To be clear, I am not one of those English hypocrites who sent death threats to Urs Meier after he disallowed a ‘goal’ in a Euro2004 semi-final. I condemned the over-reaction then and I will condemn it now. I admit I am enjoying a sneaky laugh at Chelsea’s expense, but there is a serious point here.
Being the victim of some officiating injustice is difficult, especially when so much is at stake, but there is a certain manner in which sportsmen should carry themselves. The behaviour on the Stamford Bridge pitch was an embarrassment to Chelsea, to the Premiership, to England and to Football.
Whether the referee was an embarrassment to UEFA is for them to decide; but I feel that if he had waved away the same penalty appeals for the home side at the Camp Nou, commentators would be praising him for his strength and resolution in the face of the intimidation of 98,000 fans.
Credit to Guardiola for acknowledging that Chelsea had reason to feel aggrieved; but he should not feel guilty for being happy. Chelsea also missed plenty of other gilt-edged scoring opportunities, and if you do not take them when you are on top, you live to regret it.
In conclusion, it was not a vintage night for the beautiful game, but we have the final the event deserves. Two great attacking sides, both with a rich pedigree in European competition. Yet again, the clubs searching for their first win have come up short. Just goes to show that you cannot just rock up and buy the European Cup.