Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Arsenal Robbed Against Porto By The Same Referee Who Cheated Ireland In France

The most popular referee in Ireland was back to his old tricks tonight as he robbed Arsenal in their 2-1 defeat to Porto in the Dragao Stadium. First of all he took the ball from Fabianski to set up the quick free before obstructing Sol Campbell as he tried to get goal-side, he also waved away a definite penalty after Tomas Rosicky was taken down...

It was not a good night in the office for the Gunners who were bereft of ideas of the vast majority of the match. Heading into the game they were robbed of four important players through injury, and their replacements were key in giving the match to their obstinate Portuguese opponents.

For their part Porto were worth the win, they created the most chances and always looked the more likely to score. But they had to get help from two Arsenal players to get those valuable goals.

This match was Sol Campbell's first appearance in the Champions League since scoring in the 2006 final, where Arsenal were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona. Parachuted in at the last moment due to the departures of William Gallas and Manuel Almunia through injury, the eye was always going to be on Campbell and Fabianski in particular.

Arsene Wenger did his young Polish 'keeper no favours this week when he described him as a young David Seaman, and the youngster had a major part to play in both Porto goals.

The two goals were self inflicted schoolboy errors, with Fabianski and Campbell being the two main culprits.

The opener was a real howler. Gael Clichy is suffering a poor run of form since coming back into the team after injury. He was little more than a spectator as Silvestre Varela tore past him on the wing before whipping in a cross that Fabianski helped into the back of the net!

Porto one up after eleven minutes and the worst possible start for the Gunners.

Arsenal equalized through the returning Campbell as he headed home from six yards after meeting Tomas Rosicky's headed cross following Cesc Fabregas' deep corner.

It was a real fairy tale return for the defender who was playing in League Two only five months ago, it also meant that he has scored in his last two Champions League games, even though they were 45 months apart!

He had a good first half but his legs are gone at this level and the further the game went on the further off the pace he moved. The head may be willing but his legs are wilting and he was caught out time and time again by Porto counter attacks as the match wore on.

The second and winning goal was an absolute comedy of events worthy of a William Shakespeare farce.

First of all Sol Campbell passed the ball back to Fabianski, who instead of clearing, picked the ball up, giving an indirect free kick away. Schoolboy error number one.

Referee Martin Hansson charged in with his arm in the air signalling the dead ball. Fabianski backed off with the ball while Campbell held his head in his hands at his terrible mistake.

Neither got back into position. Schoolboy error number two.

The ref asked Fabianski for the ball and he gave it to him! Schoolboy error number three.

The rest of the Arsenal team looked on dumbfound, not getting back. Schoolboy error number four.

Campbell finally wakes up and decides to get back into position, but the referee blocks him!

Quick free kick and Porto are in the lead as Falcao slaps the ball into the net.

While the ref was quite right in awarding the free, he was wrong to demand the ball back from Fabianski and giving it to Porto so quickly, and in essence he aided the quick free kick. Referees are meant to be impartial, and while he was right to ask for the ball, which any goalkeeper worth his salt would have held onto while his defence gets organized, he should not have given it to Porto and should have allowed Arsenal time to set up.

This situation is different from a quick free kick in a normal situation where the free taking player already has the ball, tonight Hansson aided the situation by giving the ball, a cardinal error by the same referee who made a terrible decision in Paris by allowing William Gallas' goal to stand after a blatant handball by ex-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry.

Minutes before Porto's second goal Hansson made another terrible call as Tomas Rosicky wriggled his way into the Porto box before being uncerimoniosly upended by a clumsy tackle from behind.

It was a definite foul and penalty but Michel Platini's favourite World Cup referee waved play on while Arsenal's players wondered what had just happened.

As mentioned before, Porto were the better side and deserved their win. Brazilian centre-forward Hulk caused Vermaelen and Campbell all kinds of problems and were it not for some smart 'keeping from Fabianski the Gunners would have found the deficit growing.

The 2-1 scoreline means that the tie is very much open, and despite Arsenal doing very little in this game they will be relatively confident of winning the return leg by two goals to take them through to the quarters.

Porto will be hoping that Campbell and Fabianski will be there for the return leg, but one gets the impression that this might be the last time we get to see the young Polish 'keeper this season.