There are some occasions when a big performance from the referee is needed. Of course it would be more pleasant if referees did their jobs well every match, but that is not possible. That being said you would expect that Europe’s top club competition, where Europe’s top players, top managers, best stadiums and on occasion the best crowds are showcased, would also be home to the best referees. Unfortunately that is hardly the case as we saw last night at the Santiago Bernabeu.
With AS Roma taking a 2-1 lead to Madrid for the second leg, they were looking to hold on to it (we all know…); Real Madrid on the other hand were desperate to avoid another premature exit from the Champions League. This ensured that the game would be scrappy and with dirty tactics employed by both sides. The referee needed to be on top of his game to give Real Madrid a fair chance at qualification or AS Roma a way back into the match in case Los Blancos scored. Here is what happened:
The referee, Mr. Vassaras, was tested early on. After awarding Real Madrid a free kick somewhere on the wings, he somehow failed to spot one of the Roma defenders wrestling down Julio Baptista in the area from the ensuing cross. Might not have been a ‘clear penalty’, but nonetheless it impeded Baptista from getting to the ball… it was not the only time in the game that he ignored (or failed to see) incidents like these either.
The nest issue I take up with Mr. Vassaras is the yellow card he gave to Gabriel Heinze after a rash tackle of sorts in the opposition’s half. We all know how Heinze likes to tackle, but this one did not make contact and it could not have been considered dangerous by any stretch of the imagination. Of course it did not help that De Rossi was screaming in pain and rolling on the grass in the aftermath of the tackle although he was not touched. The referee did even things up though when a similar tackle by Taddei on Heinze also ended up with a yellow card just a few minutes later.
However his biggest howler of the game came just between these yellow cards I have been talking about. Guti dispossessed De Rossi very fairly deep in Roma territory and was through on goal (with a couple of defenders in the way, it must be said), when the referee awarded a foul to De Rossi – who dived in case you have not realized.
With all of these gems happening in the first twenty minutes, the referee calmed down and concentrated on his game for the rest of the half, but as soon as the teams came back from their quick showers, he left me in awe. Again! Robinho had enough of Roma’s players diving, so he decided to do one himself. Because he is a gentleman, he did not hallucinate of a swimming pool in the opposition’s area, rather in its vicinity. Oh, and Perotta was booked for Robinho’s troubles. How that foul (and card) was given beats me.
Twenty error-free minutes followed after the Robinho incident and they included a well deserved red card, beautiful and legitimate goal and a long overdue caution to Cicinho who had a knack for kicking or throwing the ball away just after the referee blew his whistle. But after those twenty minutes, disaster struck again. Just after Roma’s goal, a beautiful combination by Schuster’s men ends up with a goal by Raul. Trouble is that replays showed Raul a mere two yards offside.
Nothing bad happened in the last fifteen minutes of the game as Guti attempted to make a Johnny Wilkinson-like tackle and Roma scored another into stoppage time knocking Real Madrid out of the Champions League.
Reflecting of the Mr. Vassaras’ performance, it seemed that he was not looking to pick favourites. However his performance was absolutely disastrous. Why such referees have the right to perform at Europe’s highest level when the likes of Mr. Halsey are sitting on their sofas watching the games and realizing how bad some refs are is beyond me and I think beyond everybody else as well.
Congratulations to Roma for their win at the Bernabeu! It was very much deserved.