Debunking the Barcelona conspiracy
The recent controversial match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final was certainly a heated one. It was a match that has split many opinions in regards to officiating, coaching and tactics.
However, the so-called conspiracy theory suggested by Jose Mourinho are completely incorrect. An unbiased analysis of big matches involving Barcelona over the last couple of years proves the conspiracy to be pure myth.
MYTH 1: There’s a conspiracy in favour of Barcelona in the Classicos this season as Madrid have had a player sent off in all four installments to date.
False. Three out of four red cards in this year’s Classicos have been perfectly justified. The first red card was committed by Sergio Ramos in Barcelona’s 5-0 win at the Nou Camp in November.
Ramos hacked Messi down from behind maliciously. It was in stoppage time at the end of the game with Madrid down 5-0; it is quite common for a player to lash out in frustration because of the result of the game.
The second red card was also a clear cut red card. David Villa was bearing down on goal one-on-one with the goalkeeper in the penalty box when Raul Albiol pulled him down. Considering the circumstances this is a clear cut red card, in accordance with FIFA laws of the game.
The third red card was always perfectly fair. Angel Di Maria committed a reckless challenge early in the first half of the Copa Del Rey, which earned him a yellow card. He played perfectly cleanly for the rest of the game up until the 119th minute when he dragged down a Barcelona player he was breaking away late in search of an equaliser.
Fouls that aren’t violent yet are highly tactical and cynical always warrant a yellow card. He was duelly sent off in perfectly reasonable circumstances.
The fourth red card was incorrect. Although the studs were showing in the tackle there was no malice involved and the ball was clearly Pepe’s intended target. However, Pepe’s growing reputation as a player who plays ‘on the edge’ did not help him in this case. Given the time the referee took to show the red card suggests he may have been talking to the fourth official.
This was a highly controversial decision which does need an explanation from the referee.
MYTH 2: Favouritism in the Van Persie red card.
In the round of sixteen second leg, with the match locked at 1-1 meaning that Arsenal would progress, Robin Van Persie was given a second yellow card for kicking the ball away (time wasting). It was certainly a tough call. For me there was too many factors suggesting that he definitely heard the whistle.
Firstly, given the fact that Arsenal were at the time going through there certainly was a motivation to waste time. But for me, van Persie’s body language was a telltale sign that he had heard the whistle. Van Persie halfheartedly kicked the ball in the rough direction of the goal without really suggesting scoring intent. He also showed no reaction of dissapointment for missing a genuine scoring chance.
Also, immediately after missing, he turned around to look at the referee suggesting that he was waiting to see his reaction. Normally if a player misses a chance on goal, the referee isn’t in the forefront of their thinking. I also don’t really believe that the sending off had much of an impact on the game.
Yeah, Barcelona went on to score two more goals after the sending off, but Barcelona frequently score late goals at the Nou Camp in the Champions League. They’ve been doing it for years. Also, considering that Van Persie is a striker and Barcelona had 80 per cent possession and were playing almost always in Arsenal’s half, what is Van Persie’s impact on the game? Virtually nothing.
MYTH 3: Favouritism in the infamous Barcelona versus Chelsea semi-final of the Champions League in 2008/2009.
This is one of the most controversial matches in the Champions League’s recent history. The controversy largely stems from Chelsea’s numerous penalty claims in the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Firstly, there was a clear cut penalty in the first leg when Thierry Henry was pulled down in the box with only the keeper to beat. However, play went on. Chelsea had five penalty claims in the return leg, now to analyse them.
Claim 1: Florent Malouda is in a tussle with Daniel Alves. Malouda superbly controls the ball out wide about 35 yards from the by line. Shortly after he and Daniel Alves engage in a tight tussle both have arms over each other. Eventually Malouda enters the box edge of the penalty box and falls over. This was not a penalty. Malouda clearly waited until he was inside the box before falling to the ground in search of a penalty. The referee correctly gave a free-kick outside the box, as this was were the tussle was at it’s worst.
Claim 2: Drogba is through on goal with Abidal pressuring him. There is some contact from Abidal, however it is largely him brushing up against Drogba, there is not enough contact to really make Drogba fall over. With the goalkeeper bearing down Drogba falls over. Drogba largely dives to the ground as there was no contact at the time of his fall to cause him to fall over. However, the earlier contact may have been close to warranting a penalty. Also considering that it was practically one-on-one makes this a tough 50/50 call.
The referee waved play on, this was certainly a tight call.
Claim 3: A bouncing ball lands equally between Drogba and Yaya Toure, about 25 yards from goal. They both have their hands on each other while the ball is in the air. However, Drogba is largely the more physical using his arms and muscle to get some space on Toure and win the ball. Toure catches up and performs a risky but perfectly clean tackle inside the box, the ball is clearly diverted away from Drogba path of travel by the challenge of Toure. The only claim could be a possible free kick to Chelsea about five or so metres outside the box, even that is somewhat questionable. The final challenge in the box was a textbook tackle.
There was absolutely no way that this was a penalty. The referee correctly allowed play to continue.
Claim 4: In the 81st minute a long ball drops to the feet of Nicolas Anelka just inside the box. In attempting to get around Gerrard Pique he flicks the ball at about waist height. The ball clearly hits Pique in the hand. Although Pique doesn’t move his hand towards the ball to intentionally block it. His hand is away from his body meaning that it is a hand ball. This should 100 per cent have been a penalty. The only reason I can imagine that it wasn’t was because the referee’s vision was obstructed by the rest of Pique’s body, regardless the linesman should have seen it. The referee allowed play to continue this was incorrect.
Claim 5: Deep into stoppage time after Barcelona equalise a corner falls to Ballack at the corner of the penalty box. He lashes a shot at goal that hits Eto’o in the armpit. Replays show that Eto’o jumped to block the shot with his back turned away from the shot. Firstly, this means that any handball is unintentional as he cannot see the ball. Secondly, the ball hits him in the armpit of his slightly outstretched arm. Knowing that a ball striking one’s shoulder is not a handball, it is touch and go as to if a ball striking a player in the armpit is a handball. Also, it is extremely hard to jump without the use of arms as a form of propulsion, just look at how high jumpers use their arms while jumping. It is perfectly natural for arms to be raised while jumping. This was not a penalty. The referee had a clear view and made the correct call to allow play to continue.
Another contentious point in the game was the sending off of Eric Abidal. A long ball bounced over the head of Abidal, he then proceeded to chase after the ball. Anelka cut across Abidal and in the process kicked his own heel causing him to fall over. Considering that Abidal was the last man, he was sent off. This was completely incorrect as no contact was made between Abidal and Anelka.
So over the two legs Barcelona had a clear penalty disallowed as did Chelsea. That is equal. In the second leg, Chelsea had a close penalty waved away and Barcelona had a man incorrectly sent off; sounds even to me. Clearly despite all the claims from Ballack and Drogba and conspiracy theories from Chelsea supporters, this was a overall a fair couple of matches.
MYTH 4: Referees are against Jose Mourinho whenever he plays against Barcelona. As already explained above this is largely not the case this year, the only genuinely contentious call in Classico’s this year was the Pepe send off. Although it was a very harsh call, unnecessary red cards are common in world football. We saw two examples at the World Cup, one involving the send off of Tim Cahill and another in the Spain vs Chile game were a Chilean player was sent off after bumping into Torres purely out of accident.
The semi finals between Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan and Barcelona last year was also rather controversial. The first leg was game largely void of controversy, however the cetainly were questions raised about whether or not Chelsea’s last goal was offside. Replays certainly suggested that Milito was offside by maybe half a metre. Although it didn’t seem to be at the time, it was the tie deciding goal.
The return leg at the Nou Camp wasn’t without controversy. Thiago Motta was sent off about 30 minutes into the match for a stray arm. It was an extremely harsh call. Nonetheless he deliberately but his arm in the face of Busquets. A fair outcome would have been a yellow card for Motta and a yellow card for Busquets for his pathetic over-reaction.
Probably the most controversial moment over the two legs occurred in stoppage time with Barcelona up 1-0 looking for a goal that would qualify them into the final. The ball was bouncing on the edge of the box, when an Inter player kicked the ball into Yaya Toure’s hand. Toure’s hand was infront of his stomach at the time meaning that without his hand the ball would have hit him anyway. The ball fell for Bojan Krkic who went on to put the ball in the back of the net, however the goal was disallowed. By definition this was an incorrect call.
The handball call on Toure was the equivalent of a player being his on the hand while protecting his groin in a wall, it is not a handball. Considering the context this was a massive call, and a call that fell against Barcelona, atoning for the earlier mistake in sending off Motta. Unsurprisingly Jose Mourinho made no comment on the matter, pretending he didn’t see it. In all unbiased honesty, there is nothing to suggest that Jose Mourinho’s sides have fallen victim to some kind of conspiracy when he plays Barcelona.
So there you go. After a deep analysis it is obvious that there is no UEFA/FIFA conspiracy to favour Barcelona.
Let’s all hope that the next time that Madrid and Barcelona meet, which is next Thursday morning (AEST) the match is more of a spectacle compared the the all out niggle and verbal war that marred the first leg of the semi-final.
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