UEFA, according to conspiracy theorists, have “got the final they wanted”. Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona last night, and the opening line of this post is already being widely repeated as the truth. One would have to have a heart of stone to not feel some degree of sympathy for Chelsea – they had approximately two and a half strong calls for a penalty waved away and Barcelona’s goal was their only shot on target of the entire match. There is a big difference, however, between this and a conspiracy of any sort.
The flip side to this argument is that if there was such a massive conspiracy against an all-English final, why did the referee send off Abidal for barely making any contact whatsoever with Nicolas Anelka? The most persuasive argument of all would be to say that Barcelona scarcely deserved the win over two legs, but that the referee had a pretty poor night overall, with decisions that affected both sides. Talk of a conspiracy theory, if anything, proves how detached from reality the Premier League has become, especially when there is no basis for it bar a poor refereeing performance.
The behaviour of Chelsea’s players haranguing the referee at the final whistle made it yet more difficult to feel much sympathy for them. We all know how tempers rise in the heat in the moment, but continuing the argument after the final whistle only really brings a degree of embarrassment upon the club. What, exactly, did Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack hope to achieve? Were they hoping to talk the referee into bringing the Barcelona players back out onto the pitch and restart play with a penalty to Chelsea? It would have been setting some sort of bizarre precedent if they had.
At full time, they gave us something to laugh about, at least. The sight of Michael Ballack chasing back to the half-way line with Ballack shouting in the referee’s ear and the referee sprinting away from him like a cat caught urinating on the carpet will be one of the mental images of the season. At one point, it looked as if John Terry was going to burst into tears, bringing back memories of his waterworks after Chelsea lost on penalties to Manchester United in Moscow last year. On the other hand, one felt sympathy for Frank Lampard and Guus Hiddink – Hiddink in particular could have been forgiven had he completely lost his rag at the post-match press conference, but instead remained a model of restraint and self-control.
This was the first time that an English team has lost to a non-English team in the European Cup since Milan beat Liverpool in the 2006 final. As such, last night’s result is hardly something that anyone should be getting too worked up over. After all, Chelsea still have the minor consolation of an FA Cup final against Everton to loom forward, and they’ll all be back next season, steamrollering their way through to the latter stages of the competition. This time, though, their luck ran out, and Barcelona will play Manchester United in Rome. One suspects that United were the biggest winners of all last night.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
“The sight of Michael Ballack chasing back to the half-way line with Ballack shouting in the referee’s ear and the referee sprinting away from him like a cat caught urinating on the carpet will be one of the mental images of the season”
Your wish is my command. Here’s making those mental images immortal (or as long as they stay on the interwebs)
and here’s a bonus
10 men went to laugh, went to laugh at Chelsea!!!!
“why did the referee send off Abidal for barely making any contact whatsoever with Nicolas Anelka”
Abidal deserved a red card in the first half when we beign the last man brought Drogba down without making any contact with the ball. Barcelona deserved to be a man down, not in 65th min but in 35th and Chelsea should’ve had a penelty.
Well said. I’m disappointed in the BBC this morning. Their Breakfast script on this game included several uses of the word “conspiracy” and also repeated use of “UEFA got the final they wanted”. If you or I said that, we’d be shut down…oh, and it’s bullsh*t.
At the start of the season the rule on handball was rewritten to include the word “deliberate” so now an offence is not committed unless – in the opinion of the Referee – the player deliberately played the ball with his hand. This is – frankly – a bunch of arse and leads to all manner of silliness. A player could have the ball hit is hand on the goal line and – as long as he has not deliberately handled it – play would carry on and some could make an argument that Paul Scholes’s save at Fulham last month was a “hands protecting the face” involuntary reaction and thus not handball and thus not an offence.
Down this route lies madness and Referees attempting to read the minds of players to assess if they have done something deliberately or not. It is a bad rule.
But it is a rule and if the Referee did not think that Pique meant to handle the ball then he cannot give a penalty any more than he can see the ball go an inch wide and say that it deserved a goal so he will award one.
Interesting that this was
This was the first time that an English team has lost to a non-English team in the European Cup since Milan beat Liverpool in the 2006 final.
when of course Barcelona were never in the lead in the game drawing both legs.
Not so much UEFA, but I suspect several of the continents TV companies will be happy that it’s not another all England final again.
Is there a reason why a Man U/Chelsea finally is any less appealing than Man U/Barca? Will the French be more interested in watching Henry than Melouda? Surely the top of the Premiership clashes are as nationless as Hollywood movies these days.
It is not like 22 Englishmen would have been paggering a ball about in Rome after all and Chelsea vs Manchester United is America vs Russia or Scotland vs Holland or Portugal vs Cote d’Ivore.
Hardly a thing of parochial interest and plenty to sell to any audience who is equally ready to watch Barca.
“some could make an argument that Paul Scholes’s save at Fulham last month was a “hands protecting the face” involuntary reaction and thus not handball and thus not an offence.”
My memory isn’t great, Michael Wood, but I seem to recall that Scholes’ handball against Fulham was from a cross from the right, and Scholes was just inside the penalty area. He wasn’t saving on the line and it wasn’t, as far as I could see, an instinctive attempt to shield himself. He could have headed the ball away, but chose not to. Deliberate handball, red card.
The point I’m making Kevin is that once the word “Deliberate” is added to the rules then it is possible to make an argument that anything that happens on the field could not have been done on purpose even the most handbally handball I could think of – the Scholes one – could be argued that it is not against the rules because neither you nor I can utterly sure that he meant to do it.
I might not recall the incident that well – I don’t watch that much Premiership football – but we can take another example which we can all agree on.
I can not say with 100% certainty that when Diego Maradona saw Peter Shiton jumping towards him in 1986 he did not think “Blimey, better protect my face against Shilt’s paws” and raised his hand but as he did he had an arm spasm and his hand went over his head and when it was up there a wasp flew near by and rather than being stunk he tried to swat it away and – whoops – punched the ball into the net.”
I’m pretty sure that did not happen but because I’m not in the mind of Maradona I can’t ever be 100% sure so there is always an argument that it is not Deliberate ergo not an offence.
The solution is to remove the word “Deliberate” from the rule on handball.