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Calamitous refereeing leaves Wenger fuming

February 18, 2010

Sol Campbell puts his head in his hands after a costly 'back-pass'

Controversy was the flavour of the night in Lisbon, as Arsenal went down 2-1 to a mediocre Porto side in the Estadio do Dragao. Perhaps fortunate for Arsenal, the match won’t be remembered for the Football but for a series of blunders from both referee Martin Hansen and from Gunners’ goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Fabianski played a major hand in Porto’s opener as he spilled a Varela cross into his net after placing himself in a rather dubious position. However, the lead and Fabianski’s red face didn’t last long, as Sol Campbell headed the equalizer from a corner which was headed back across goal by Tomas Rosicky. 1-1 after 20 minutes.

It was the second half that brought about the most controversial and bizarre moment of the match. On 50 minutes Lukasz Fabianksi picked up a very unnecessary and perhaps not entirely purposeful back-pass from Sol Campbell, and Porto were awarded an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area. In an attempt to hold up play and allow his defenders to get back and form a wall, Fabianski kept hold of the ball whilst protesting with the Swedish referee. However, Fabianski forgot one of the most fundamental rules of being a goalkeeper; get back on your line as quickly as possible.

The Polish International then obliged to the referee’s demands to throw the ball back, before turning to the linesman some 50 yards away on the touchline to partake in yet more protesting. Whilst his back was turned, Ruben Michael took a quick free kick to his teammate Falcao who duly slotted the ball into an open net. 2-1 Porto.

The referee’s performance has been subject to a lot of criticism since the incident last night, the majority of which has come from the mouth of Arsene Wenger, who isn’t shy to voice his displeasures when he feels his side are hard done by.

What can you do about the second goal? The back-pass was accidental, whenever do you see the defender kick the ball with his toe? The ball hits Sol, it was not on purpose and it has to be intentional to be a free kick. It is difficult to understand how the referee can interpret that.

For me, if the referee sees that Campbell has hit the ball back at Fabianski with any part of his foot, it has to be a back-pass. Campbell’s reaction (pictured) is perhaps a giveaway, as he goes straight to hold his head in his hands before rising to place his hands on his hips as if to say ‘what have I done?’. It’s a clear back-pass in my opinion and the referee got that bit exactly right. Wenger went on to say:

I have never seen that and I have been in the game a long time. It is difficult to understand. It is completely inappropriate that he allows that in such a situation. When the referee gives the free-kick he has to allow us a chance to defend it, otherwise it is better to give a goal straight away.

Once again, I believe that Wenger is wrong here. It is completely within Porto’s rights to take a quick free kick, and the referee is 100% entitled to allow them to do just that. I’m sure had the incident been given at the other end, and Arsenal had been disallowed a goal because they’d taken a quick free kick, Mr. Wenger would be equally as angry. It’s clever thinking, and quick-minded play from the two Porto players.

The one area of the incident which hasn’t received any coverage, and comes as a surprise to me, is the referee’s position as Porto take the free kick. Mr. Hansen is stood directly in front of Sol Campbell, blocking his attempt to stop the taking of the free kick.  Surely had the referee not been stood blocking Campbell’s way then Campbell would have been able to prevent the goal. He may have been booked for doing that, but Arsenal would not have conceded. Can there be any blame pointed at the referee for that?

Martin Hansen has been involved in his fair share of controversial moments in the last 6 months or so, none more so than Thierry Henry’s infamous handball that knocked Ireland out of the World Cup. But I feel he handled the situation as well as he could have done on this occasion.

Hansen’s performance obviously left Arsene Wenger fuming, but even with a Fabianski own goal and a controversial Falcao goal, Arsenal didn’t deserve to win the match. Their performance was nothing short of woeful, and they were lucky to  lose by just the one goal. Fabregas, Diaby, and Nasri were all way short of top form, and constantly gave possession back to the home side with sloppy short-range passes and a willingness to keep hold of the ball for far too long. The Gunners didn’t look at all threatening in the final 3rd of the pitch either, and it was only when Theo Walcott came on that they started to attack Porto. Even then, they didn’t get the ball to the tricky winger often enough.

Sol Campbell looked unfit and nervy at the back and Denilson was an ineffective foil in front of the back four. As for the goalkeeper’s performance, this will be a match that Lukasz Fabianski will want to forget rapidly. Arsene Wenger refused to criticise the Pole, however:

I do not want to come out individually on Lukasz’s performance, and judge him in front of everybody. You have to accept you lose as a team and win as a team. Any individual performance is not to be analysed publicly.

So after such a poor performance and result for Arsenal, it can only get better at the Emirates in 3 weeks time. The one positive they can take is they have the vital away goal heading into the second leg. They may even have Andrey Arshavin, Alex Song, and Manuel Almunia all fit again, leaving them with a thin silver lining to a thick cloud from Lisbon.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Ole Gunner permalink
    February 18, 2010 2:54 pm

    The referee did not allow any chance of defending the free kick. One, he retrieves the ball from Fabianski. Then he turns to talk to Campbell. The free kick was taken with the ref’s back turned and his attention directed elsewhere. Then he blocks off Campbell who’d in any case have been in a position to tackle the free kick taker.

    The referee’s actions and interference prevented Arsenal from defending the free kick. An indirect free kick in the box is not any free kick.

    Wenger is completely right.

    Speculating on whether he’d have thought the goal valid if the shoe was on the other foot, is a non sequitur.

    The referee was either right or wrong. And he was wrong.

  2. George permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:38 pm

    So are you saying that the rules should be changed so that teams cannot take quick indirect free kicks? If the free kick was given right on the edge of the box for another offence lets say, should Porto have been allowed to take it quickly? And what constitutes allowing Arsenal to defend? One, two, three defenders back in the penalty area?

    These are all cloudy areas that need to be resolved, but if we’re going by the book here then the referee was correct. There’s nothing in the rules that say the defending team must have a certain number of players back in order for the free kick to be taken.

    It’s understandable why Arsenal fans like yourself are upset, and I do sympathise with you. I just think the referee played by the book and did the right things. Until someone can quote to me where it says that he was wrong, then I stand by my opinion as you do yours.

  3. GunnerX permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:46 pm

    Surely you mean calamitous defending, neither of our keepers are fit for purpose, failing to rectify this is a serious dereliction of duty as far as I’m concerned. If, Mr Wenger can’t find a better keeper that the one’s we have, then something is seriously wrong at our club.
    The team is carrying far too many passengers to successfully compete at this level. Denilson, Bendtner, clichy and Walcott all seem to have regressed over the last year. At times we lack a cutting edge, a result of not having a real grafter in the side, and far too many similar type players
    Yes, we were missing a number of key players and we’ll still qualify for the next round, but I cant see us progressing much beyond that, I really hope I’m proved wrong, but I fear not.

  4. George permalink
    February 18, 2010 3:57 pm

    I did think about that as a title, but Wenger didn’t seem to be furious about that so much. Haha.

    I agree completely with your points. Why oh why is Nicklas Bendtner at the club? He is awful! You’re not going to win trophies with that donkey up front.

    You’re just too lightweight in midfield. Like you say, too many similar players. Nasri, Fabregas, Denilson. They’ll all pick a great pass and slot open a defence but with backs against the wall they won’t be there fighting. Wenger’s got problems.

  5. Matt permalink
    February 18, 2010 4:29 pm

    The fact that the referee got involved in returning the ball to Porto meant that by allowing Porto to take a quick free kick, gave them a massively unfair advantage. If the ball had been passed DIRECTLY to Porto, then fair play, but the referee has to accept that he cocked up there. Wenger is talking rubbish about the back pass, but Flappy-handski should have kicked it out. We need a player who will go mad at this fellow players (a la Peter Schmeichal) when the performance is dropping. The midfield has been labouring to get back for weeks now, and it was evident again last night, teams just float through us. If Thomas Vermaelan is reading this, take up the mantle and start raging at lay individuals

  6. George permalink
    February 18, 2010 5:23 pm

    But Fabianski threw the ball at the referee, who dropped the ball on the ground. What else was he supposed to do? Stand there and just let the ball hit him? Whether Fabianski passed the ball to the referee OR directly to Porto makes no difference. They’d still have scored.

    I’m also confused as to why people keep saying that Fabianski should have kicked it. Campbell was no more than 5 yards away from him when the contact was made, so Fabianski was preparing to pick it up. He wouldn’t have been able to adjust his feet and kick the ball away, and it was his reaction to pick it up.

  7. dan permalink
    February 18, 2010 6:25 pm

    what match did you see? why is there no mention of a clear penalty before that incident? When did you ever see a referee sprint to retrieve a ball and place it in front of the player only to turn away from the action? Why does he raise his arm to start play after the porto player kicked the ball? the ball didn’t change direction or gain any momentum and it was clearly accidental from sol, and there is no way the referee could have seen it from 50 yards behind.

    Yes, Arsenal were not great. Porto I don’t think was woeful and had fabregas on the floor at every opportunity, which is a great way to play as long as the referee allows it.

    anyway, why no objectivity?

  8. George permalink
    February 18, 2010 6:32 pm

    I never said Porto were woeful. Arsenal were woeful.

    Yes, Rosicky should have had a penalty. No doubt about it. The referee’s inconsistency of decision making was very poor indeed. Arsenal can feel hard done by there.

    I’m just trying to play devil’s advocat. I sympathise with Arsenal fans but I also have my own opinion, and that is the goal was legit.

  9. dan permalink
    February 18, 2010 8:46 pm

    was it a controlled, purposeful backpass, 100%

    if not, then the rest doesn’t matter I guess

  10. February 23, 2010 12:25 pm

    Its funny how Wenger only makes a fuss when he’s on the receiving end of a bad call. Bad call, yes it was. But in years gone by I do recall a certain Bergkamp and Henry taking advantage of such poor (maybe worse) officiating and Wenger conveniently kept mum about it. We all go thru karma. Live with it!

  11. February 23, 2010 9:01 pm

    Wenger is probably the best and the worst thing that happened to Arsenal.

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