Chelsea rage at refree over penalties
LONDON: Didier Drogba faces potential Uefa sanction after furiously confronting the referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, as the officials departed the turf at the final whistle last night as Chelsea's departed the Champions League crying conspiracy over the Norwegian's erratic display.
The Premier League side were already aghast that a quartet of impassioned penalty appeals had gone ignored by the referee when, having led the tie from the ninth minute courtesy of Michael Essien, the hosts conceded to Andres Iniesta in the third minute of stoppage time. That was the visitors' only shot on target and there was still time for a fourth appeal for a spot-kick to be rejected, prompting Chelsea players to surround Ovrebo and Drogba, substituted 18 minutes from time, to sprint from the dug-out to scream abuse at the officials.
Stewards and the Chelsea manager, Guus Hiddink, attempted to pull the striker away from the officials, only for Drogba to turn to a television camera crew on the pitch and shout: "Are you watching this? It's a disgrace. It's a fucking disgrace." That was broadcast live on air, prompting an apology from the broadcasters, though it is understood that a trio of senior players subsequently confronted Ovrebo again once he had entered the tunnel.
Drogba – who was booked for his protests out on the pitch but could face more serious sanction for prolonging his abuse of the officials – apparently slapped the wall in front of the referee in his frustration, with John Terry believed to have voiced the concerns of Chelsea's players by suggesting Uefa had been anxious to avoid a repeat of last season's all-English Champions League final.
"People are making suggestions, but it's difficult to prove things," said Hiddink. "Conspiracy is a very tough word and you have to be able to prove it. But when you analyse things closely, then I also start thinking ... I cannot say if Uefa would not like another all-English final. What I'm sure about is, in big games like this, you need top-notch referees who have lots of experience in the big leagues in Italy, Spain, England and Germany.
"Players make many mistakes, coaches make mistakes, referees make mistakes. That's why we speak about giving them the benefit of the doubt. But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then [Ovrebo's performance] was the worst I have seen. At this moment, I'd have to think a lot if I have seen worse. The overall feeling is one of being robbed and one of injustice. That's why it was so hot and angry."
Chelsea were incensed that Ovrebo ignored Daniel Alves' first half foul on Florent Malouda – he awarded a free-kick just outside the box – and a tug by Eric Abidal on Drogba, but also by two handballs by Barcelona players inside the penalty area. Gerard Pique's on Nicolas Anelka's flick was most blatant, though Samuel Eto'o leapt with his arm in the air to block Michael Ballack's shot deep into stoppage time at the end. The referee is understood to have told the Uefa match delegate after the game that he made "significant mistakes" over the course of the game.
Pique later conceded that the ball had struck his hand. "The referee decided it wasn't a penalty, and sometimes it's wrong," said the former Manchester United centre-half, who will now confront his former team-mates in Rome. The visiting manager Pep Guardiola also stated that he could "understand Chelsea's disappointment with the performance of the referee".
"In this game we had six or seven penalty claims waved away and that is astonishing," said Terry. "Why did we get a referee who has officiated in 10 games in the Champions League in his career? To be given the Champions League semi-final, that's not good enough. It's down to Uefa to be strong. They should say: 'These are our four best referees, they are going to be refereeing the two home and two away legs.' He simply wasn't good enough.
"All we want is a fair playing surface. Not one player made one mistake in the two legs. The referee has made four or five or six big errors and now we're out the competition. The word conspiracy is maybe the wrong one. It's difficult when players are so high on emotion after a game. People are saying we shouldn't have reacted the way we did but the fact is that six decisions went against us. For the ref not to give one of them is unusual."
Drogba, sent off in last season's final in Moscow, faces the prospect of a further ban now for his reaction at the end, though he gained support from his team-mates in the aftermath. "I'm fully behind Didier and the way he reacted," added Terry. "But the fact is the referee is the one who should face the consequences, not Didier."