When people refuse to move with the times, as every other major sport in the world has, and deny the worth of video technology, the argument used is that ‘decisions will even themselves out in the end’.
It’s true that one week your team may wrongly have a penalty awarded in their favour and a fortnight later, a penalty wrongly awarded against them, and that supports the tit for tat situation we have to accept because of the incompetence of referees and linesmen.
However, there is no accounting for wrong decisions against your rivals. When teams at the top play each other, or teams at the bottom, they are referred to as ‘six pointers’. You have the opportunity to claim three points for yourself as well as deny your rivals three points and the only way wrong decisions in these games can even out are when you play each other in the second fixture of the season. In May, when the teams who are going down and the team who has won the title are decided, it’s the result of these ‘six pointers’ which can be crucial.
When United lost at Stamford Bridge earlier this season because of the inept refereeing of Martin Atkinson, I wondered if it would come to bite us in the arse at the end of the season, given that the three points Chelsea stole from us that day put them five points clear of us.
But I honestly cannot believe that it has happened again and that with five games to play, the officials may have done more Chelsea’s title challenge than ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ and his merry men could ever hope for.
November 8th 2009: Chelsea 1 – 0 United
The Telegraph: This was such a travesty of justice that Manchester United should follow Chelsea’s recent example and appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Wayne Rooney was utterly brilliant, Darren Fletcher had Deco in one pocket and Michael Ballack in the other, while Patrice Evra mocked Ashley Cole’s billing as the world’s best left-back, yet the table shows Chelsea five points clear. Lady Luck was a blue-rinsed hussy strutting down the King’s Road merrily picking visitors’ pockets.
Challenging Cole for possession, Fletcher clearly targeted the ball but the referee, Martin Atkinson, ruled that the Scotland midfielder had fouled the Chelsea man. Fletcher raged at Atkinson, splenetically spelling out that he had made contact with ball before man. Cole had indeed reacted like a startled cat falling off the airer onto the Aga.
Dismissing all pleas, Atkinson signalled a free-kick and United retreated to form the barricades, seething with injustice. Maybe they were distracted but, for once, the rearguard let down its guard. Brown allowed himself to be wrestled down far too easily by Didier Drogba, a clear foul, but Atkinson’s vision was obscured by Joe Cole.
The Guardian: The Premier League leaders, Chelsea, moved five points clear of Manchester United with a goal of murky origins. Darren Fletcher wrongly had a foul awarded against him in the 76th minute and from Frank Lampard’s free-kick John Terry headed home, although Didier Drogba may also have got a touch.
Hot-tempered action followed, but the true surprise was the initial placidity of the play, particularly from Chelsea. The visitors, too, were unlikely to tear a defence asunder, but there was an intent to attack, with Wayne Rooney wrongly ruled offside when he went clear in the sixth minute.
The BBC: Twice Chelsea got the better of close early refereeing decisions, firstly when Anderson set Rooney through on goal only for the striker to be harshly ruled offside and then when Terry escaped punishment for a tug on Valencia’s shirt in the box.
United had argued that Fletcher, in conceding the crucial free-kick, had won the ball from Ashley Cole and that Drogba was in an offside position as the ball flew in – but their protests fell on deaf ears.
The Sun: Fergie claimed Darren Fletcher got the ball when adjudged to have fouled Ashley Cole for the free-kick which led to the 76th-minute goal.
United’s boss looked right about that and also argued that Didier Drogba pulled Wes Brown as the kick came in.
April 3rd 2010: United 1 – 2 Chelsea
The Guardian: Chelsea opened out the game again by the simple expedient of bringing Drogba and Salomon Kalou on for the last 20 minutes, and though the former was offside when the latter’s reverse pass played him in, the flag stayed down and a trademark finish exploded past Van der Sar at his near post.
The Telegraph: Didier Drogba was clearly in an offside position when freed by Saloman Kalou’s short through ball. The referee’s assistant – despite having a perfect view – allowed play to continue and Drogba fired home to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead.
The Daily Mail: Didier Drogba’s controversial winner allowed Chelsea to shrug Manchester United aside and put themselves back in pole position in the Premier League title race.
Sir Alex Ferguson and his team will feel hard done by as Drogba was clearly offside as he collected Salomon Kalou’s pass and drove home 12 minutes from time.
The significance of the error only became clear once Federico Macheda had pulled a goal back for the hosts to set up a pulsating finish.
United are now two points behind Chelsea with five games to play. Had the officials got the decisions right in the games when we played each other, we would be four points clear.
However undeserved it may be, the fact that the referees have gifted Chelsea six points won’t change anything come May.